Great Lakes & Seaway Shipping News Archive

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Man airlifted to safety from Beaver Island

2/28 - Beaver Island, Mich. – U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City evacuated a man experiencing a life-threatening illness from Beaver Island Airport Friday at 8:30 a.m.

J. Croswhite, a resident of the island, received emergency medical care after he exhibited life threatening symptoms. Beaver Island emergency medical services were able to stabilize his condition prior to the helicopter's arrival.

"The weather between Traverse City and Beaver Island was very challenging," said Lt. Jeremy Loeb, the HH-65C helicopter pilot. "In the dynamic winter weather environment of the Great Lakes, the Coast Guard oftentimes is the only agency that can respond in these severe conditions," said Loeb.

Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay was diverted from its Lake Michigan ice breaking mission to Beaver Island in the event that the helicopter was unable to land due to poor weather.

Petty Officer Chris Monville, a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, evaluated the patient's health and accompanied a Beaver Island paramedic on the flight. "The highly effective coordination between Beaver Island EMS, law enforcement and airport staff made this medevac successful; it's a team effort and everyone played a key role in saving a life," said Monville.

The helicopter airlifted the man to Cherry Capital Airport, where an awaiting ambulance took him to Munson Medical Center.

The Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City operates five helicopters that conduct search and rescue operations for Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and the surrounding Great Lakes region.



Rideau River ice breaking to start a day earlier

2/28 - Ottawa, Ont. – The City of Ottawa is moving up its ice-breaking operations; they are now set to start today, weather permitting. Ice breaking operations were originally scheduled to start on Sunday.

The city, in partnership with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, undertakes this process each year to alleviate possible spring flooding in flood-prone areas. Ice breaking operations will be carried out daily.

Ottawa South


Put-In-Bay monument to close for repairs for two seasons

2/28 - Put-In-Bay, Ohio – One of Lake Erie's most famous landmarks is getting a makeover.

The Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island is going to close for repairs for two seasons beginning in August. National Park Service officials say they first want to fix the observation deck that sits 350 feet above Lake Erie.

Those repairs will cost $7 million. The park service hopes to spend another $19 million on sprucing up the rest of the monument.

The memorial opened in 1915 and is one of Lake Erie's most recognizable sights. It commemorates Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory over the British during the War of 1812.

An estimated 200,000 people visit the monument each year.

Columbus Dispatch


Updates - February 28

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 28

The VENUS (steel propeller bulk freighter, 346 foot, 3,719 gross tons) was launched on 28 February 1901, by the American Ship Building Company (Hull #307) at Lorain, Ohio for the Gilchrist Transportation Company, converted to a crane-ship in 1927. She was renamed b.) STEEL PRODUCTS in 1958, and lasted until 1961, when she was scrapped at Point Abino, Ontario, the spot where she has run aground and partially sunk while being towed for scrap.

The light house tender MARIGOLD (iron steamer, 150 foot, 454 gross tons, built in Wyandotte, Michigan) completed her sea trials on 28 February 1891. The contract price for building her was $77,000. After being fitted out, she was placed into service as the supply ship to the lighthouses in the Eleventh District, taking the place of the WARRINGTON. The MARIGOLD was sold in 1947, converted to a converted to dredge and renamed MISS MUDHEN II.

The rail ferry INCAN SUPERIOR (Hull#211) was launched February 28, 1974, at North Vancouver, British Columbia by Burrard Drydock Co. Ltd. She operated between Thunder Bay, Ontario and Superior , Wisconsin until 1992, when she left the Lakes for British Columbia, she was renamed b.) PRINCESS SUPERIOR in 1993.

OUTARDE was launched February 28, 1906, as a.) ABRAHAM STEARN (Hull#513) at Superior, Wisconsin by Superior Ship Building Co. In 1929, the Grand Trunk carferry MADISON, inbound into Grand Haven in fog and ice, collided with the U.S. Army dredge General G G MEADE, berthed on the south bank of the river for the winter. Damage was minor.

Data from: Max Hanley, Dave Swayze, Steve Haverty, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Cliffs latest to announce mining operation shutdown as downturn worsens

2/27  – Cliffs Natural Resources will shut down its North Shore Mining operation in Silver Bay during the month of April, and close Hibbing Taconite from May to August, the company said Wednesday.

Cliffs’ announcement came less than a week after U.S. Steel said it is cutting production at Minntac — the largest iron ore operation in the region —and laying off nearly 600 hourly workers and management staff at Mountain Iron.

It appears the region’s mining industry is presently operating at less than half its capacity, a telling sign of how a deepening recession is cutting demand for steel.

“The production curtailments reflect the current global market conditions in the steel and iron industry and are necessary to balance production with demand,” said Cliffs spokeswoman Maureen Talarico of the company’s newest round of production cuts.

A sagging construction sector and auto sales that have all but come to a standstill have reduced demand for steel and thus taconite since the fourth quarter.

Cliffs manages Hibbing Taconite, which is jointly owned by Cliffs (23 percent), ArcelorMittal (62 percent) and Stelco (15 percent). Production will be reduced by 2.75 million tons in 2009; a 50 percent decrease from planned 2009 production. The second of three pellet furnaces at HibTac will be idled in late March. A complete shutdown for 15 weeks will begin in May, Cliffs said.

About 83 HibTac employees will face potential layoff of more than six months by the end of April. HibTac employed more than 700 FTEs in 2008. About 100 already are off the job from previous production curtailments.

With the reductions, Cliffs executives now estimate 2009 production at 2.75 million tons, well below the 5.5 million tons announced earlier. The plant has the capacity to produce 8.3 million tons annually. Talarico said 2009 production could be higher if demand improves.

At Cliffs’ wholly o d Northshore Mining in Silver Bay, a one-month shutdown will begin in April, reducing production to 3.7 million tons in 2009. Northshore has a 5.8 million ton annual capacity, according to the company. Northshore employed 514 FTEs in 2008. Production of its two larger palletizing lines is expected to resume in May.

Meanwhile, Minnesota’s Iron Range is reeling from a series of shutdowns, curtailments and layoffs. Here’s a snapshot:

• In early November, Cliffs said it would idle three pellet furnaces — two at Northshore Mining and one at its wholly owned United Taconite plant in Forbes.

• In early December, U.S. Steel halted production at its Keewatin Taconite (KeeTac) mine and mill unit for an undetermined period. While nearly 400 workers were affected, some were transferred to Minntac.

• In mid-February, U.S. Steel announced about half its workforce, 590, will be laid off in coming weeks at Minntac.

• Union officials at ArcelorMittal’s Minorca mine in Virginia have stated their concern that a planned shutdown in April could extend for several more months. Minorca employs about 345 FTEs in 2008 and has an annual capacity of about 2.8 million tons.

• At the two taconite operations managed by Cliffs in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Empire Mine owned by Cliffs (79 percent) and ArcelorMittal (21 percent), and Tilden Mine, Cliffs (85 percent) and Stelco (15 percent) will operate at about half capacity in 2009. Dale Hemmila, Cliffs’ Michigan District public relations manager, said the Empire Mine will produce 4 million tons of taconite in 2009, and 2.7 million tons is planned at Tilden. Between the two operations more than 300 workers are now off the job, he said.

Industry analysts don’t expect a rebound before the fourth quarter.

“With the infrastructure emphasis that we, as a country are including in the stimulus package, it can help the iron ore industry pull out of this recession fairly quickly, perhaps as early as the fourth quarter of 2009,’ said Peter Kakela, Michigan State University taconite industry analyst.

In an unrelated interview about economic conditions, College of St. Scholastica economist Tony Barrett told BusinessNorth he expects the effects of the stimulus package to begin in the final quarter.

While the reductions are a bitter near-term pill, at least some think that the industry’s cutbacks now will help produce a more rapid future recovery.

“The industry structure is consolidated, the response (to the downturn) has been quick. There’s not a big inventory backlog,” Kakela said. “The cuts hurt right now, but will help avoid a delay in a resumption of production later.”



Toledo Port Authority narrows field for president

2/27 - Toledo, Ohio – The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority Board of Directors authorized Chairman William J. Carroll and Director R. Michael Frank to enter into negotiations with Michael J. Stolarczyk for the President and CEO position.

In a news release, the port said Stolarczyk is currently employed by Exel Inc., a contract logistics provider in the Americas with more than 500 sites throughout the U.S., Canada, and Latin America.

The Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority has been led by Interim President, Paul L. Toth, since August 2008 when the Board of Directors dismissed then President James H. Hartung. In conjunction with the position of Interim President, Toth also serves as Vice President of Technical and Financing Services and as the Interim Airports Director for the Port Authority.

Toledo Free Press


Planners propose retrofitting old gypsum tramway for wind turbines on Lake Huron

2/27 - Tawas City, Mich. – A historic gypsum mining operation on breezy Lake Huron may get a new lease on life as a wind power enterprise.

Alabaster Township, home to U.S Gypsum Co. and National Gypsum Co. properties, has formed a nonprofit corporation that is maneuvering for new federal stimulus package cash to fund wind studies on Lake Huron.

The Alabaster Wind Power Development Corp. proposes using 10 large tramway platforms extending more than 6,000 feet into the lake to gauge winds.

U.S. Gypsum built the tramway in 1928 to ferry buckets of gypsum to waiting freighters. The tramway was torn down in the 1990s, but the huge concrete pads remain.

This week, developers said they'll request up to $500,000 for wind research on Tawas Bay and at a nearby shoreline site owned by U.S. Gypsum. The study's goal is to determine whether wind power production is commercially viable for Alabaster Township, south of Tawas City.

"At this point we have township support, a corporation to pursue the project and a pretty convincing package for what we want to do and how," said David Mikelonis, a corporation principal and former attorney for Consumers Energy.

"With new stimulus money coming to Michigan, we know the money's there for clean energy projects. We plan to be ready."

Mikelonis, a Jackson attorney, said developers hope to install wind data collection equipment this summer. State regulators require at least two years of data before permitting construction of wind generation plants.

Alabaster trustees formally endorsed the corporation and its efforts to get funding on Feb. 9.

"We've been contacted by eight or 10 people with the same idea, to put windmills on those (platforms)," said Stephanie Wentworth, Alabaster Township supervisor. "We think it's an exciting concept and certainly worth looking into."

The Alabaster site is attractive to developers because its open water location offers relatively strong, steady winds, Mikelonis said. Also, shoreline residents are accustomed to the gypsum tramway and would more likely accept its reuse for wind turbines.

U.S. Gypsum is working with Alabaster to facilitate the wind study, Wentworth said.

Developers, meanwhile, say their vision calls for building a wind project that would produce 20-40 megawatts of energy - similar to that made by Consumers Energy hydrodams on the nearby Au Sable River. Coal-fired and nuclear energy plants, by contrast, typically generate about 800 megawatts, planners said.

Alabaster's development team includes Mikelonis, a Michigan finance attorney and a South Carolina developer who has built wind power plants in the West. Mikelonis, who has summered on Tawas Bay for decades, proposed the project to township officials last year.

"We think Northeast Michigan needs development that preserves it and makes it affordable," he said. "The area doesn't get enough credit for its beauty."

Bay City Times


Updates - February 27

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 27

GOLDEN SABLE was launched February 27, 1930, as a.) ACADIALITE (Hull#170) at Haverton-Hill-on-Tees, United Kingdom by Furness Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.

Data from: Steve Haverty, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Iron Range mines could lose up to 1,000 more jobs

2/26 - Duluth, Minn. – More cuts at Iron Range mines were announced Tuesday. The next rounds of casualties are expected to occur at Hibbing Taconite Co. and Northshore Mining Co. and probably will affect more than 1,000 workers.

Cliffs Natural Resources notified workers Tuesday that it will idle the second of Hibtacs three lines at the end of March, a move expected to result in the layoff of 83 people. This will be followed in May by a 15-week shutdown of the facility, affecting almost the entire 596-person staff at Hibtac.

Meanwhile, Cliffs told workers at Northshore Mining Co. in Babbitt and Silver Bay the plant will cease production for a month, beginning in April. Northshore employs 557 people. These actions are a reflection of our markets as they are right now, said Maureen Talarico, Cliffs manager of public affairs for Minnesota. Were balancing supply and demand. Chris Goerdt, an electrician with Northshore Mining for six years, is concerned about his job, but remains loyal to the company.

Of course I’m worried and nervous, but until there is a definite answer, I don’t know how to feel, said Goerdt, who with his wife, Amy, supports four children younger than 12. [Northshore] has got to do what they’ve got to do. They’ve been straight forward with us and act like they care.

The adjustments are expected to cut Hibtacs planned production in half, dropping it to 2.75 million tons in 2009.

I think the impact is going to be felt tremendously in Hibbing, said the towns mayor, Rick Wolff. The cuts are not shocking for Wolff, given Minntacs announced layoffs last week. We just hoped we could skin by without it happening, Wolff said. That’s just one-third of Hibtacs annual capacity of 8.3 million tons. Hibtac is jointly owned by Arcelor Mittal (with a 62.3 percent share), Cliffs (with a 23 percent stake) and U.S. Steel Canada(controlling 14.7 percent). We need to consider our partners needs and wants in adjusting production, Talarico said.

Wolff looks to the federal stimulus package for relief. It needs to get into the hands of these people that are creating jobs and create the demand for the steel and other products so these folks can get back to work, Wolff said. The month-long shutdown at Northshore is expected to trim production there to 3.7 million tons about 64 percent of its 5.8 million-ton-per-year cappacity. Todays announcement reflects the continuing difficult economic conditions of the global steel and iron ore industry, said Donald Gallagher, president of Cliffs North American business unit, in a statement issued Tuesday. Cliffs announcement comes close on the heels of the Friday news that U.S. Steel Corp. will lay off about half its workers at Minntac for an indefinite period of time in the coming weeks.

The cuts will affect about 590 people at the Mountain Iron mine and plant. In December, U.S. Steel ceased production at Keewatin Taconite Co. for an indefinite period, as well. That operation employed about 380 people. United Taconite in Forbes and Eveleth continues to operate at a reduced capacity, as well, with employees working a 32-hour week.

Duluth News-Tribune


Port Reports - February 26

Halifax - Mac Mackay
Atlantic Erie entered the Novadock floating drydock Wednesday morning, escorted by the tugs Atlantic Oak and Atlantic Larch. That afternoon, Algosea left the Scotiadock II floating drydock for pier 9, using the tugs Atlantic Larch and Atlantic Bear, to prepare for sea. Algoscotia left Imperial Oil at 6 p.m. for St-Pierre and Algocanada arrived at the pilot station at 7 p.m.


Updates - February 26

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 26

The completed hull of the BELLE RIVER (Hull#716) was floated off the ways February 26, 1977, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp. Renamed b.) WALTER J MC CARTHY JR in 1990.

JOSEPH L BLOCK (Hull#715) was launched February 26, 1976, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin by Bay Shipbuilding Corp.

On 26 February 1874, the tug WILLIAM LIVINGSTONE JR was launched at Port Huron Dry Dock. Her dimensions were 151 feet overall, 25 foot 6 inches beam, and 13 foot depth. Her machinery was built by Phillerick & Christy of Detroit and was shipped by rail to Port Huron. She cost $45,000. Her master builder was Alex Stewart.

On 26 February 1876, the MARY BELL (iron propeller, 58 foot, 34 gross tons, built in 1870, at Buffalo, New York) burned near Vicksburg, Michigan.

Data from: Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Shipping by water could shift traffic from highways, but obstacles remain

2/25 - Norfolk, Va. – An idea that dates to Lewis and Clark's trek west is experiencing a rebirth thanks to the truck traffic that increasingly chokes highways: shift more of the nation's freight burden to boats that can traverse rivers, lakes, canals and coastal waters.

Increased concerns about fuel prices and global warming in recent years have revived interest in marine highways from the Erie Canal to the Chesapeake Bay to the coastal waters off Oregon, Massachusetts and Texas. Proponents envision further expansion of the country's 25,000 miles of navigational waterways by making greater use of the coasts and inland routes, such as the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. A significant expansion of the marine highway system faces several obstacles:

• Many locks haven't been updated in decades to accommodate increased freight traffic. Replacing the nation's lock system would cost an estimated $125 billion.
• A harbor maintenance tax that can add $100 or more on an international cargo container shipped domestically by water. The tax is not collected on cargo moved by trucks or rail, or on U.S. exports.
• The scarcity of U.S. ships to serve domestic ports along short-sea routes.

Some blame a federal law that limits shipping between domestic ports to U.S.-built vessels whose crews are at least 75 percent American, a restriction intended to protect U.S. shipbuilders but which critics say has contributed to the industry's decline by stifling innovation. Despite these infrastructure and regulatory constraints, entrepreneurs are charting a way forward, one tugboat trip at a time.

Ed Whitmore spent 11 years on Wall Street before returning to his native Virginia six years ago for the rough-and-tumble life of a tugboat operator. He took a "broken down, beat-up company" with one belching tug and grew Norfolk Tug Co. into a fleet of 10. With the help of a $2.3 million federal grant, Norfolk Tug has made once-a-week runs up the James River since December 2008, delivering cargo from oceangoing vessels to the Port of Richmond. Each container loaded on a barge removes one truck from the 90-mile stretch along Interstate 64. Whitmore estimates his business removes roughly 4,000 trucks from I-64 each year. "It's important to drive an initiative like this forward," said Whitmore, whose French cuffs hark to his days in structured finance.

The "64 Express" already has captured a tiny piece of packaging maker MeadWestvaco Corp.'s huge shipping portfolio. Large rolls of paper from its Covington mill in far western Virginia are trucked to the Port of Richmond and Whitmore's barges for export from the coast. Lawmakers from coastal states and along likely inland routes such as the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes favor short-sea shipping as a means to economic development and job creation.

"In a day and age when we're trying to save energy and reduce pollution and we're trying to take some of the clutter off our highways, it just makes sense to do it," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md. The rail and trucking industries don't pay much mind to their much smaller shipping counterpart, though they don't want to see it grow as a result of public policy. "The market should govern how short-sea shipping is used," said Clayton W. Boyce, a spokesman for American Trucking Associations. Before the development of a national rail system and later an interstate highway system, nearly all the country's goods were shipped on boats. Today, 94 percent of all domestic freight moves on rail or by truck. But not without some cost. Congestion on roads and rails costs the U.S. economy as much as $200 billion a year and 44 billion person hours, according to the Transportation Department.

One 15-barge tow removes 1,050 tractor-trailers from the highways. And with just a gallon of diesel, a barge can move one ton of cargo 576 miles. A rail car using the same amount of fuel moves that ton of cargo 413 miles, while a truck gets only 155 miles. Short-sea shipping advocates also point to a strong safety and environmental record.

In 2005 and 2006, spill rates were 6 gallons per 1 million ton-miles for trucks, 3.86 gallons for rail, and 3.6 gallons for barges, according to a Texas Transportation Institute study conducted for federal transportation officials. When accidents do occur on water, the impact tends to be large. In July, a tug on the Mississippi near New Orleans veered into the path of a tanker, causing a rupture that spilled 283,000 gallons of oil and shut the waterway for days. The economic stimulus package passed by Congress included $27 billion for road-building projects and $12 billion for rail and other infrastructure improvements – but not a nickel was specifically directed at short-sea shipping. Proponents of funding for marine highways, including the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., say their next best opportunity will be the debate on the fiscal 2010 federal budget.

The Associated Press


Port Reports - February 25

Ludington, Mich.
The tug Mark Hanna and barge arrived in Ludington late Monday evening and proceeded with little difficulty through the ice to the Dow Chemical dock to load calcium chloride for an unknown port. The pair is expected to depart Wednesday morning.


Updates - February 25

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 25

CREEK TRANSPORT was launched this day in 1910, as a.) SASKATOON (Hull#256) at Sunderland, England by Sunderland Shipbuilding Co.

Data from: Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Coast Guard search on Lake Superior

2/24 - Duluth, Minn. – After searching through the night, the U.S. Coast Guard resumed its search Monday morning for what might be a person or people on a moving piece of ice about four miles from the McQuade Small Craft Harbor on Scenic Highway 61 north of Duluth.

A Coast Guard helicopter and a C-130 airplane criss-crossed the area of the lake but did not find anything, Petty Officer Chad Hart of the Coast Guard station in Duluth said.

"It never was confirmed that there was someone out there," he said.

The search continued this morning. "As far as we know, they're still out there doing their search patterns," Hart said. "We haven't heard anything."

At around noon Sunday two people at the Lakeview Castle restaurant on Scenic Highway 61 saw what they thought might be a person or people trapped on a piece of moving ice, according to the Coast Guard.

Officials from the Coast Guard, Duluth police, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office converged at the McQuade boat ramp. Using binoculars, they spotted something, but by that time the wind had pushed the ice so far out that the group wasn’t sure whether it was a person, or just an item floating on a piece of ice.

“We could see something on the ice. We couldn’t confirm what it was,” said Petty Officer Jeremy Myers of the Coast Guard’s Duluth office. No boaters had been reported missing Sunday. Because of the ice in Duluth’s harbor, the Coast Guard could not dispatch a search boat, Myers said, which was why the helicopter and plane were called out.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search Monday afternoon.

"We have suspended the search after exhausting our resources and without getting any additional information to believe someone is in distress," said Lt. Juan Carlos Avila.

The Coast Guard received a report 4:30 p.m. Sunday that a purple/red object was floating on a piece of ice four miles outside of Knife River.

A C-130 airplane, a DNR single-engine airplane and three helicopters were deployed and searched 1,200 sq. miles of Lake Superior, Avila said.

Duluth News Tribune


Summer Great Lakes cruises to originate in Twin Ports

2/24 -Duluth, Minn. – On Independence Day this summer, the Clelia II will slip into Duluth’s harbor and tie up near the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. Then 100 passengers will be shuttled to the Great Lakes Aquarium, where they’ll go through a U.S. Customs check. It might not seem significant, but that customs check could usher in a new era in cruise boat tourism for Duluth. It will mark the first time a cruise is starting or ending in Duluth.

Cruise ships have made stops in Duluth before, but they haven’t started or concluded journeys here. “This is pretty big to have the exchange of passengers. People flying in, people flying out,” said Ron Johnson, trade development director with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “It’s a much bigger economic impact.” He said many people will come up early for their cruise and stay a night or two in local hotels. Or they’ll spend a day in Duluth before flying home at the end of a cruise.

The 290-foot Clelia II cruise will make 14 voyages between Toronto and Duluth between July 4 and Sept. 12. Johnson has visions of Duluth entertaining similar numbers of ships every year.

Duluth isn’t alone, said Stephen Burnett, executive director of the Great Lakes Cruising Coalition, which for 12 years has worked on behalf of cities in the U.S. and Canada to promote cruising. “It’s the last uncruised region of the world,” he said. Cruising on the lakes is ripe for expansion, Burnett said. The Great Lakes simply aren’t considered a destination for cruising, he said. “If you say ‘cruise’ to 1,000 people, 999 people will say blue water and shining sand,” Burnett said.

“It’s built very much off the image of the Caribbean or Alaska.” Experts say that’s partly because of lack of marketing and the dip in travel after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but also because of some natural disadvantages. There’s a distinct lack of smaller Great Lakes-size cruise ships like the Clelia II, Burnett said.

The locks the ships must go through were built before many of the larger vessels in use today in the Caribbean. The locks can handle cruise ships large enough for 500 passengers, but cruising ships in the Caribbean are built large enough for 1,500 people or more.

That means ships like the Clelia II, which holds 100 people, are catering to a different clientele willing to pay more and primarily interested in history and learning. The price per person for the Clelia II cruise will run between $5,595 and $10,695 per person for an all-inclusive, one-way voyage.

“They’re learning about the historical, geographical, geology, moving raw materials, cities and transportation,” said Chris Conlin, president of the Great Lakes Cruise Co. of Ann Arbor, Mich, which markets cruises on the Great Lakes. “We rarely get a first-time cruiser. You’d rarely get young people,” Conlin said.

The costs also are higher in part because the fees for cruising the Great Lakes are higher than those on other cruise routes, said Vasos Papagapitos, co-president of New York-based Travel Dynamics, which is putting on the Clelia II voyages.

One way the government could help encourage more Great Lakes touring is by helping make the fee structure more on par with other cruising regions, he said.

Papagapitos said he hopes to repeat the Duluth cruises every summer. “We feel the demand is increasing.” Conlin said while Duluth is a great place to bring tourists, it’s also the westernmost point of the Great Lakes, so it will only be a stop on cruises with longer itineraries. “You’re really in the wilderness area,” Conlin said. “It’s a matter of distance and timing,” he said.

Duluth News Tribune


Mackinac Island man found dead on Lake Huron

2/24 - St. Ignace, Mich. – Authorities were releasing very little information Monday morning after the mysterious death of a Mackinac Island man.

George William Wellington Jr., 38, of Mackinac Island was found over the weekend in the Straits of Mackinac. .

A spokesman from the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed that a member of the St. Ignace detachment spotted a man on the ice Sunday morning with a subsequent investigation leading to the discovery of the deceased. The St. Ignace Police Department and Allied Emergency Medical Services also responded to the scene.

“We don't know why he was where he was,” said the Coast Guard representative speaking from the Cleveland Office. “We don't have any facts on this man at all.”

While the Coast Guard was the first agency to discover the man, the investigation into the incident has been turned over to the St. Ignace Police Department.

There is speculation, at least in some circles, that the man may have encountered unspecified difficulty while snowmobiling and had somehow become separated from his machine.

Sault Ste. Marie Evening News


Mackinaw Straits carferry veteran passes away

2/24 - St. Ignace. Mich. – Gerald R. "Jerry" Cronan, a former Michigan State Ferries plankholder and Third Mate of the icebreaker/carferry Vacationland, passed away Sunday afternoon, surrounded by his family in St. Ignace, where he'd lived all his life. Cronan commanded the last state ferry landing in Mackinaw City on November 2, 1957, and when the Vacationland tied up that day, he retired from the water, never to sail commercially again. He later served as a highway department weighmaster in the Upper Peninsula. His passing marks the loss of a man who was apparently the last surviving Michigan State Ferries officer, having been preceded in death two years ago by Capt. Aaron "Mickey" Sweeney, also of the Vacationland.

The son of Capt. Fred Cronan, a former ferry captain himself, and later the head of the Coast Guard Office in St. Ignace, Jerry was named for Capt. Gerald Stufflebeam, who commanded many famous Great Lakes vessels, including the Chief Wawatam and the Alabama. Stufflebeam was also at one time the Superintendent of Michigan State Ferries.

Jerry Cronan was an expert at marine knots, and anonymously did many of the details on the displays at the museum at Whitefish Point. He also authored several articles on knot tying in Wooden Boat, prior to suffering a stroke two years ago. He had been confined to bed ever since, though his mind was sharp to the end. Jerry's collection of State Ferry union papers and documents rounded out my history of the ferry service which was published in 2007 in the St. Ignace News, and as an Arcadia Publishing "Images of America" book the same year.


Updates - February 24

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates added


Today in Great Lakes History - February 24

The Pittsburgh Steamship Co.’s RICHARD V LINDABURY (Hull#783) was launched February 24, 1923, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. Purchased by S & E Shipping (Kinsman) in 1978, renamed b.) KINSMAN INDEPENDENT. She was scrapped at Aliaga, Turkey in 1988. The founder of Arnold Transit Co., long-time ferry operators between Mackinac Island and the mainland, George T. Arnold filed the Articles of Association on Feb. 24, 1900.

On 24 February 1920, TALLAC (formerly SIMON J MURPHY and MELVILLE DOLLAR, steel propeller, 235 foot, built in 1895, at W. Bay City, Michigan) was on a voyage from Colon, Panama to Baltimore, Maryland, when she stranded and was wrecked 18 miles south of Cape Henry, Virginia.

Data from: Roger LeLievre, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.



Wisconsin proposes tough new Great Lakes regulations

2/23 - Madison, Wisc. – Oceangoing ships would have to meet some of the nation's strictest ballast water quality standards before they could dock in Wisconsin's Great Lakes ports under regulations state officials proposed Friday.

The plan is designed to block new invasive species from hitching rides in oceangoing vessels' ballast water and overwhelming native Great Lakes ecosystems. The state Department of Natural Resources estimates more than 180 nonnative fish, plants, insects and organisms have entered the Great Lakes since the 19th century, wrecking food chains, ruining beaches and jeopardizing tourism.

"We continue to believe the best way to fix this is with strong federal legislation," said Todd Ambs, administrator of the DNR's water division. "This is not our preferred approach. But we can't wait any longer."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in December adopted ballast discharge permit regulations requiring commercial ships to dump it at sea or rinse their tanks with salt water to kill organisms in residual water or mud. Environmentalists criticized those provisions, however, saying they only mirrored current U.S. Coast Guard policy.

Minnesota and Michigan set up their own discharge permit programs before the EPA completed its permit package. The other Great Lakes states, except Wisconsin, added their own specifications to the EPA rules.

Wisconsin began crafting its own add-on regulations last year. But the National Wildlife Federation challenged them as too weak, the Lake Carriers Association, which represents Great Lakes-only shipping, challenged them as too strong and state water officials ended up waiving their right to amend the federal package.

Under the new plan, oceangoing vessels would have to pay $1,200 to apply for a 5-year permit allowing them to discharge ballast water at Wisconsin's Lake Michigan and Lake Superior ports. They'd also have to pay an additional $345 each year they hold the permit.

Gov. Jim Doyle's budget proposal, released this week, estimates the fees would generate about $460,000 by 2011 and cover three positions to run the program.

The ships would have to meet limits on the number of living organisms allowed in discharged ballast water.

Existing oceangoing ships would have to meet a standard 100 times stricter than limits suggested by the International Maritime Organization by 2012, assuming viable water treatment technology is available by then. New York has an identical 100-times-tougher regulation.

Beginning in 2013, new oceangoing ships would have to meet a standard 1,000 times tougher than the IMO's, identical to California's limits.

Ships that never leave the Great Lakes wouldn't face discharge standards. They would instead have to use strategies to control invasives, such as disinfectants.

The requirements reflect concern in the Great Lakes-only shipping industry over paying millions of dollars for ballast water treatment equipment.

The "lakers," as they call themselves, say they may move organisms around but their spread is inevitable once they reach the Great Lakes. States need to stop the oceangoing ships, or "salties," from bringing the invasives in, they contend.

"Once something is here we have to live with it. The issue is we have to stop future invaders through salties," said Glen Nekvasil, vice president of communications for the Lake Carriers Association.

Officials with the Shipping Federation of Canada, a Montreal-based group that represents shippers with Canadian offices, declined to comment.

Stuart Theis is executive director of the Cleveland-based U.S. Great Lakes Shipping Association, which represents agents who often work with oceangoing vessels. He declined comment on Wisconsin's plan, but said everyone on the lakes is frustrated with a "crazy quilt" of state regulations.

Marc Smith, state policy manager for the National Wildlife Federation, the group that complained Wisconsin's original plan was too weak, praised the new proposal.

"We like what we see thus far in it. We like that it's tough on salties," he said.

Andy Lisak is the executive director of Superior's development association. He estimates the port there, the largest in Wisconsin, contributes about $200 million to the local economy.

He praised the DNR for recognizing the difference between lakers and salties. But he said Wisconsin's standards could add to an already-confusing hodgepodge of regulations and push ships to avoid Superior, potentially costing jobs.

"When we see standards that are substantially greater than IMO, it gives us pause," he said.

The DNR will collect public comment until March 23 and then consider revisions, Ambs said. He hopes to issue the first permits by the beginning of the spring shipping season in mid-April.

Associated Press


Lake levels in Michigan continue to rise

2/23 - Harrison Township, Mich. – The misery of January and February's seemingly endless string of snow days and rainy nights may have a silver lining once warmer weather arrives.

Lake levels have been on the decline for most of the last decade, helping to increase unwanted vegetation, increasing the distance between "lakefront homes" and the lakes, and causing financial headaches for the shipping industry. But the latest estimates from the U.S. Army Crops of Engineers show that for the second year in a row, lake levels in February are higher than the year before.

"In the last 18 months or so, we've been trending, trending away from the lows of previous years and are moving closer to the lakes' long-term historical averages," said Scott Thieme, chief of the Corp's Great Lakes Hydrology office.

A continued increase in lake levels will be blessing to the shipping industry. For every inch of draft available, a large ship can accommodate an additional 8,000 tons of cargo. In recent years, cargo freighters on the Great Lakes have had to scale back their payloads as a result of shallower waters.

According to the Corp of Engineers' statistics for January:

Lake Superior is two inches higher than last year.
The Lake Michigan/Huron system is a foot above last year.
Lake St. Clair is up one foot from last year.
Lake Erie is up four inches from last year.
Lake Ontario is up eight inches from last year.

Despite that growth, the Corp's six-month projections show that by July, water levels could be inches below where they were 12 months prior. Thieme said that is due to high levels of precipitation in last year's late spring and early summer months.

Regardless, Thieme said the Great Lakes levels are rising.

Detroit News


Driver killed after SUV plunges into Detroit River

2/23 - Detroit, Mich. – Detroit, Mich - A black Chevy SUV was pulled out of the Detroit River off of Belle Isle Sunday afternoon, and a man was found dead inside.

Rescuers and dive teams were searching the waters off of Belle Isle where a witness reported seeing the vehicle drive straight into the water sometime this afternoon.

A tow truck pulled the vehicle from the waters at about 4 p.m. Rescuers believe the van had been submerged since about 1:15 p.m.

Once the car was pulled ashore, EMS and fire crews extracted the man, approximately 40 years of age. At this time, police believe the incident may have been a possible suicide.

"They looked and there were no signs of life," said Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Robert Dombrowski. The man has not yet been identified. No one else was in the van.

The Detroit Police Underwater Recovery Team and the U.S. Coast Guard had set up a rescue barge to aid the search.

According to police, a female witness told authorities she saw the black SUV approach the river on the Canadian side of the island. The witness assumed the driver was trying to get close enough to the shoreline to feed the Canadian geese but the vehicle continued right into the water, police said.

Adrian Platts and the Detroit News


Port Reports - February 23

Detroit, Mich. - Larry Flinn
The tug Everlast and barge Normal McLeod departed Marathon Oil in the Rouge River about 8 p.m. assisted by the G Tug Wyoming. Once reaching the Detroit River the Wyoming headed downbound to her dock and the Everlast headed upbound to Sterling Fuels where they arrived about 9:55 p.m. They are expected to remain at the dock until some time Tuesday night when they will head upbound for Sarnia.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon passed Detroit upbound Sunday evening while the Samuel Risley was anchored in western Lake Erie.


Updates - February 23

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates added


Today in Great Lakes History - February 23

The e.) U.S.S. ROTARY (YO-148) was commissioned on February 23, 1943, at Sullivan's Dry Dock & Repair Co., Brooklyn, New York and assigned duty with the Service Force, Third Naval District, Atlantic Fleet. The tanker was built in 1915 at Chatham, England by Chatham Dock Yard Ltd. as a.) H.M.S. SERVITOR. Renamed b.) PULOE BRANI in 1922, brought to the Lakes and renamed c.) B B MC COLL in 1927, and d.) A J PATMORE in 1929. After her U.S. Naval Service ROTARY reverted to her previous name f.) A J PATMORE and then g.) PEGGY REINAUER in 1946. Renamed h.) DETROIT early in 1955, she traded on the lakes until 1975. Her partially dismantled hull was abandoned in 1985, in the back waters of Lake Calumet.

On 23 February 1843, SANDUSKY (wooden side-wheeler, 148 foot, 377 tons, built in 1834, at Sandusky, Ohio) caught fire at her dock on Buffalo Creek in Buffalo, New York and burned to the hull. She was recovered, rebuilt as a 3-masted bark and lasted another two years.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Winter maintenance: how the St. Lawrence Seaway stays on track

2/22 - Massena, N.Y. – Each year, thousands of ships pass through the St. Lawrence Seaway, but it isn't a simple trip to make. That's why the seaway's locks are the key to its success.

"Duluth is about 800 feet higher than Montreal, so you have to get the ships up and down and so a lock will allow a ship to go both up the system and down," said Collister Johnson Jr., Administrator for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

Where I'm standing now is usually under 30 feet of water. The water is blocked off so that maintenance crews can make repairs critical to the lock's operation. Because if the locks aren't working, the whole seaway is tied up.

Johnson said, "You'd have ships backed up in Montreal, you'd have ships trapped in the Great Lakes and these are expensive assets. Many thousands of dollars a day. It would be very economically damaging not only to the owners, but the people who are receiving the commodities."

So to make sure the seaway runs smoothly during operating season, it shuts down for about two months a year so the massive concrete locks can get the attention they need to keep things moving.

"Electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance. There's always welding repairs to be done, adjustments to be made, you know, take care of leaks and seals that are broken," said Tom Lavigne, Director of Engineering and Maintenance for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.

The locks are 50 years old and although they're operating fine now, the Seaway hopes to start an Asset Renewal project to bring them up to date.

"Totally rehabilitate the gates, the structures themselves, but also go from the old mechanical system to hydraulic system, a lot of work to be done, but kind of bring us on par with the rest of the locks in the country and around the world," Lavigne said.

And make sure the Seaway locks are in shipshape for years to come.

The winter maintenance process will be complete in mid-March so the locks can be filled with water in time for the seaway to open on the 31st.

News 10 Syracuse


Port Huron lands deed for lighthouse

2/22 - Port Huron, Mich. - Port Huron officials this week received a signed deed from the U.S. Coast Guard for the Fort Gratiot Light Station.

Before the city can take control of the station, which includes the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, the deed must be approved by the City Council. City Manager Bruce Brown said it could be months before that happens because city officials plan to propose changes to the document, which outlines conditions that must be met under city ownership.

The proposed changes will be sent back to the Coast Guard for final approval.

City Engineer Bob Clegg said officials have waited about two years for the document. At first glance, Brown said, the deed includes "a few more restrictions than we will probably agree to."

In a December presentation to the City Council, Clegg said $3.83 million worth of work needs to be done on the light station's seven buildings. The buildings are: the lighthouse, built in 1829; the duplex lightkeeper's dwelling, built in 1874; the fog signal building, built in 1900; the single lightkeeper's dwelling, built in 1932; the former Coast Guard building, built in 1932; the equipment building, built in 1939; and a three-bay garage, built in the 1970s.

Dennis Zembala, president of Port Huron Museum, which would operate the site if it is acquired by the city, said his group has started raising money for restoration work. The immediate goal, he said, is to raise about $225,000 to restore the lighthouse, which was closed last year because of its crumbling bricks structural problems.

When Clegg made his presentation, city council members were not "very excited" about the price tag and about the city taking on that kind of debt, Brown said.

He said the deed calls for much more for restoration to the station's outbuildings than city officials would like to do, which "is a rub, because we want to save the lighthouse." Brown said the city's main concern is: "How do we save the lighthouse before it falls down?"

He said city officials will examine the deed and "see if it is anywhere where we need it to be."

Port Huron Times Herald


Cargo ship ran aground as chief officer snoozed

2/22 - A cargo ship ran aground on the Irish coast after the watchkeeper fell asleep in his seat, an accident investigation report revealed Friday.

There was no dedicated lookout on duty either as the vessel, loaded with 2,360 tonnes of scrap metal, sailed on for over three hours with nobody on board awake before ending up on a gently sloping beach three miles north of Larne, in Northern Ireland, last June.

Officials of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch have already called on the organization responsible for international shipping standards to take action to deal with unacceptable levels of fatigue involving crews working long hours.

And following a probe into this incident in the North Channel of the Irish Sea last June, a report warned: "It can only be a matter of time before these 'unguided missiles' cause a catastrophic accident."

The Antari was on its way from Corpach, Scotland to Ghent, Belgium when the chief officer fell asleep shortly after taking over the watch at midnight on June 28 as the ship passed the peninsula of Kintyre. He had been working a six hours on, six hours off watchkeeping regime with the master.

There was no lookout on the bridge throughout the night and the watch alarm had not been switched on, safety requirements which should have been routinely applied. It was a moonless night and the sea was calm, with a slightly westerly swell.

The officer fell asleep in his chair on the starboard side of the wheelhouse, in front of one of the radar sets, and was still asleep more than three hours later when the ship grounded at 3.21 a.m. on the beach. Coastguards in Belfast were alerted by a passing motorist. More than 70 per cent of the bottom of the hull was damaged and repairs involved 25 tonnes of new steelwork.

The unnamed master and the sleeping chief officer both held Russian certificates of competency. With five other members of crew on board at the time, both worked as watchkeepers. According to records, on some days during May and June last year, they were not achieving the hours of rest necessary to meet the proper safety requirements.

The Irish Times


Updates - February 22

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 22

On 22 February 1920, the Goodrich Line’s ALABAMA (steel propeller passenger/package freight steamer, 272 foot, 2,626 gross tons, built in 1909, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin) ran aground on a concrete obstruction which was the foundation of the old water-intake crib in Lake Michigan off Belmont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The SIDNEY O NEFF (wooden package freighter, 149 foot, 346 gross tons, built in 1890, at Manitowoc, Wisconsin) took off the ALABAMA’s cargo and then harbor tugs pulled the ALABAMA free. Repairs to her hull took the rest of the winter and she didn’t return to service until May 1920.

February 22, 1925 - The ANN ARBOR NO 7 made her maiden voyage. On 22 February 1878, the 156 foot wooden freighter ROBERT HOLLAND was purchased by Beatty & Co. of Sarnia for $20,000.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Escort for Algosar is mission accomplished for Mobile Bay

2/21 - Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. - Wednesdays mission for the men aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay was to deliver the Algosar and its cargo described as 10,783 metric tons of refined petroleum products to the Purvis Marine Pier in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Ice, more than two-feet thick in many places, stood in the way. If there was any question whether the icebreaker was needed to make the journey it was quickly answered just north of DeTour Village where the Algosar was beset in ice.

With very little shipping traffic at this time of year, the U.S. Coast Guard launched a two-pronged attack on the thick sheet of ice which virtually covered the entire length of the St. Marys River. The 140-foot Biscayne Bay led the charge Wednesday morning breaking the first trail while the Mobile Bay was responsible for freeing the stuck vessel and widening the path.

Its more efficient to put two breakers here when there is no other shipping traffic, explained Director of Vessel Traffic Services Mark Gill early Wednesday morning before the Mobile Bays departure. Our mission is to provide safe and efficient movement for the tanker Algosar.

Gill said that while shipping traffic certainly falls in the winter season with the closure of the Soo Locks, the work required to move the vessels greatly increases once the ice forms.

In the harshest winter climate we are working harder to move less cargo, he admitted, quickly adding that the shipping lanes must remain open even during the off season.

In addition to petroleum products that are delivered via boat for heating throughout the region, there are other vessels that haul salt to provide traction for those attempting to navigate icy roads.

The Mobile Bay, based out of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., is powered by two diesel generators fueling an electric motor to the tune of 2,500 horsepower. Sheathed in 5/8 of an inch of steel and a reinforced ice belt it is capable of breaking 30 inches of ice.

The ship is designed to ride up on the ice sheet bending and breaking the thick covering which is capable of bogging down much larger boats.

Engineer Officer Chris Harrison said the cutters hull lubrication system, nicknamed The Bubbler forces air beneath the waterline when activated and reduces friction between the steel and ice essentially adding another 800 horsepower.

The electric motor picture a Minnkota on massive quantities of high-grade steriods powers the 140-foot Mobile Bay through the ice. The hull essentially is lifted onto the sheet of ice allowing the full weight of the boat to crush and crack the large plates leaving hundreds of broken pieces, both big and small in her wake.

Captain Vasilios Tasikas explained there are advantages to having the the 22,540-gallon diesel fuel tanks at or near the full level for this kind of operation.

The extra weight aids in ice breaking, he said.

The Mobile Bay is capable of breaking ice up to 30-inches thick, according to Coast Guard documents, but Tasikas expressed even more confidence in this vessel.

Backing and ramming, the captain explained of the technique required for anything deeper. One way or another we will get through.

There was no backing and ramming on Wednesday with a relatively smooth trip up the river. Smooth, however, is a relative term for those who make their living sailing on the ice-covered Great Lakes. A steady vibration rumbled through the boat for nearly nine hours with the occasional shift causing even the crustiest of sailors to lurch at times there is a difference it seems, between sea legs and ice legs.

The vibration was infrequently interrupted during Wednesdays run, only when the Algosar became hung up did the constant grind and vibration temporarily abate. The Mobile Bay would then turn back, circle the stuck vessel to relieve the ice pressure, and again set a course back up the river.

The only other break came roughly in the area of Baie de Wasia where the open water brought by the swift current associated with the narrow channel between the Sugar island and the mainland had apparently whisked away virtually all of the ice from the shipping channel.

The crew was rewarded with baby-back ribs, fried potatoes, corn-on-on-the-cob and fresh salad upon reaching port in Sault Ste. Marie, eating their dinner as the Algosar was churning into its own port on the other side of the St. Marys River.

Mission accomplished.

From the Soo Evening News


Wolfe Island ferry makes emergency delivery

2/21 - "It's all in the line of duty," said Captain Leon Fawcett who, with Mate Joe Gaudreau, pushed the big ferry Wolfe Islander III through the ice on Tuesday, on an emergency ambulance trip. Departing quickly around noon, Captain Fawcett hit the horn and, loading the ambulance with other quick moving vehicles,departed for Kingston.

Meantime, in the ambulance, Dr. Kim Meathrel of Wolfe Island was giving birth to her daughter, Sadie, six pounds and ten ounces. Also in the ambulance was Dr. Neal Michelutti, Kim's husband and the baby's father.

We're just glad that the crew got us over here, and the ambulance crew was able to meet us and it all turned out OK," said Meathrel. "I just started to feel like maybe there was something starting to happen so we started to get the bag packed and we knew that there was a 12 o'clock boat."

A few minutes later,the ferry arrived in Kingston, where another crew of paramedics was waiting. they then departed for the Kingston General Hospital.

This is the first baby born aboard the Wolfe Islander III, which has been in service now for 33 years. There was at least one born in Purser Dick Spoor's office on the older MS Wolfe Islander back in the late 40's. And there were possibly two babies born prior to that on the old sidewheeler SS Wolfe Islander during the early part of the last century.

By: Brian Johnson and Rob Tripp, Kingston Whig Standard


Ship lovers fear fabled liner United States lost

2/21 - Bill Wood has marveled at the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley. But the fate that likely awaits the cruise ship S.S. United States has left him and other ship enthusiasts from the Carolinas teetering on depression. The 53,000-ton passenger liner, which on its maiden voyage set the all-time speed record for crossing the Atlantic  roughly three days, 10 hours is dangerously close to ending up in the scrap heap. The "Big U" has been left to rust at a Philadelphia pier for a decade. It is viewed as too expensive to restore. The passenger liner SS United States first sailed in 1952.

Wood sees a tragedy. "It's sad to see something like that, as cutting edge as was ever built commercially, just wasting away," said Wood, a mechanical engineer now living in Charlotte.

Wood is a member of the Washington, D.C.-based S.S. United States Conservancy, which so far has waged an unsuccessful fight to save the ship.

The group's mission has been more aimed at raising awareness that the vessel is in danger of being lost forever if its most recent owner, Hong Kong-based Star Cruises, lets it die. Many assume it's a foregone conclusion, with either Chinese or Indian ship breakers likely in charge of the ship's fate.

"She's a symbol of the nation," lamented Robert Hudson Westover, of Washington, D.C., the chairman of the S.S. United States Foundation. "This was America's flagship for 17 years."

Built in Newport News, Va., and sent to sea in 1952, the ship was billed as the fastest of its day and became America's entry into the post-World War II civilian pleasure cruise business. At about 1,000 feet long, the ship still could make it through the Panama Canal.

Wood's interest in the ship is more youthful than most. He was just 2 years old when his adoptive parents brought him home from France on board the United States. His name is in the ship's manifest, right along with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. As an adult, Wood collected all sorts of S.S. United States items, including some of its rare deck chairs. When his work and travel schedule allowed it, he visited the ship in Philadelphia.

Part of his appreciation is for the craftsmanship that went into building the ship before more modern fleets became floating shopping malls. "It had a lot of art deco and commissioned art in it," he said. "It's almost like the '55 or '56 Chevy. It's the pinnacle of American design, and by American design I mean 'style.' "

But as ships got bigger and the vessel's day passed, it bounced around, eventually getting stripped of its fixtures and everything else of value. Much of the ship's style has been gutted or sold off, leaving only bulkheads.

Not much has happened with the ship in recent times. Westover has tried to get members of Congress interested, but nothing has materialized. The group, which totaled some 1,200 members at its peak, is not raising money on the ship's behalf because the members are not sure it would do much good.

Westover hopes the importance of the ship isn't forgotten, even as its allies fear they are fighting a losing battle and that the ship will be towed to Asia and carved up.

"I hope this doesn't turn out to be a tragedy," he said.



Iced-in dolphins freed off Newfoundland

2/21 - St. Johns, Nfld.  – Residents of a small southern Newfoundland, Canada, port took matters into their own hands to free three dolphins trapped by ice.

Four men and a teenage boy took a 17-foot fiberglass speedboat into the icy waters to cut a path for five of the dolphins, whose plight gained international attention this week, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. "Nighttime, they'd been crying and everything," Rice told the CBC.

However, by the time the group reached the dolphins, only four were seen, and by the end of the icebreaking, only three were still swimming. Two swam to freedom on their own but the third was very weak, Radio VOCM in St. John's reported.

Locals watching from shore assembled a rope harness and the boat towed the animal to open water. One of the men jumped into the freezing water and removed the harness, VOCM said.

Appeals were made to the Canadian coast guard and military for an icebreaker earlier this week but none was near the area, the report said.

From UPI


Updates - February 21

News Photo Gallery updated

New links on the Links Page


Today in Great Lakes History - February 21

The EDWIN H GOTT arrived at Two Harbors. Minnesota (her first trip) February 21, 1979, with the loss of one of her two rudders during her transit of Lake Superior. Also the other rudder post was damaged. She was holed in her bow and some of her cargo hold plating ruptured as a result of frozen ballast tanks. Even the MACKINAW suffered damage to her port propeller shaft on the trip across frozen Lake Superior.

At Port Weller Drydocks Ltd. the keel of the new bow section for the HILDA MARJANNE was laid on February 21, 1961, while at the same time the tanker hull forward of her engine room bulkhead was being cut away. On 21 February 1929, SAPPHO (wooden propeller passenger ferry, 107 foot, 224 gross tons, built in 1883, at Wyandotte, Michigan) burned at her winter lay-up dock in Ecorse, Michigan. She had provided 46 years of service ferrying passengers across the Detroit River. She was neither repaired nor replaced since the Ambassador Bridge was nearing completion.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Spring icebreaking gets underway this weekend

2/20 - Quebec City, Que. - Spring icebreaking is set to begin this weekend on Lake St. Pierre and surrounding areas. The Canadian Coast Guard has advised people living east of the Laviolette Bridge in Trois-Rivieres and on the shores of Lake St. Pierre, and persons using these areas, that icebreaking operations will begin on the north and south shores for the Lake St. Pierre, Becancour and Gentilly areas on or about February 22.

The purpose of the yearly operation is to dislodge ice at the mouths of the tributaries in order to prevent ice jams and flooding that can result from the spring break-up. The icebreaker CCGS Martha L. Black and the Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft Waban-Aki and Sipu Muin will carry out the operation.


Algoma Central's profit shrinks

2/20 - Toronto, Ont. - Algoma Central Corp. reported Wednesday its fourth-quarter profit sank 35 per cent to $16.8 million on weakness in its ocean shipping and Great Lakes and Atlantic Canada oil-product tanker operations, along with foreign exchange losses.

Quarterly revenue increased six per cent to $196.4 million from $185.1 million, but earnings per share declined to $4.33 from $6.70.

The year-ago quarter's bottom line of $26.1 million was boosted by a $5.6-million benefit from lower tax rates, while the most recent quarter suffered from the impact of the weakening Canadian dollar on U.S.-dollar debt, after foreign-exchange gains a year earlier.

Full-year revenue was $688.9 million, up from $580.5 million, but earnings sagged to $41.3 million or $10.61 per share, down from $52.4 million or $13.48 per share.

The Toronto-headquartered ship operator said the year's pre-tax operating profit was up four per cent. This was attributed to higher earnings in the domestic dry-bulk segment, improved full-year profit in the ocean shipping group, and slightly higher profits in real estate operations.

However, the product tankers segment suffered from a scheduled dry-dock of the tanker Algoma Hansa, and lake-freighter amortization expense increased. The Algoma Hansa, a sister ship to the Algosea, currently trading under Bahamian flag, is chartered to Hanseatic Tankers, the new international product tanker joint venture which was formed in 2008.

Going forward, Algoma Central plans to spend $6 million on its hotel property in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., after terminating the Holiday Inn lease and assuming control Feb. 1 of what now is the Waterfront Inn and Conference Centre.


Lake Ontario rising, so are high water concerns

2/20 - Rochester, N.Y. - The level of Lake Ontario is steadily rising as water is entering the lake faster than it is being let out. And that has some residents along the lake's south shore concerned about possible flooding during spring storms known as nor'easters.

The level of the lake Wednesday was reported at 245.6 ft. above sea level. The February long-term average is 244.7 ft., which means Lake Ontario is nearly one foot above normal for this time of year. But it is still within the four-foot fluctuation range mandated by treaty with Canada. The upper limit is 247.3 ft.

The International St. Lawrence River Board of Control is taking the necessary steps, according to Plan 1958-D, to reduce the level. In fact, water is being released from the lake at the Moses Saunders Power Dam at Massena at the rate of 255,000 cu. ft. per second, which is 90 percent of the release capacity. The board's U.S. Secretary, John Kangas in Chicago, says more water cannot be released because of the ice cover down river. "This is a typical bump in the lake level because of snowmelt," said Kangas. He also noted that Lake Erie is rising and that water flows into Lake Ontario. There is no mechanism to regulate the water coming from Erie.

"Are we heading into a potential high water situation this spring? Right now, it does not look that way," said Kangas, although he acknowledged receiving several e-mails from people concerned about the high lake level.

High lake levels can do serious property damage when strong northerly or northeasterly whip up high waves that can pound shoreline properties. professor Dr. Frank Sciremammano is a member of the St. Lawrence River Board of Control. He says "what we try to do in winter is release the maximum amount of water we can, but managing the ice so as not to cause ice jams, which can cause flooding around Montreal." Sciremammano added, "the long-term forecast is that by spring, the lake will be back to the seasonal average."

The St. Lawrence Seaway is closed for the winter, but is scheduled to re-open March 31.



Updates - February 20

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 20

On February 20, 1959, Interlake Steamship Co.’s HERBERT C JACKSON (Hull#302) was launched at Great Lakes Engineering Works in River Rouge, Michigan.

The Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker DES GROSEILLIERS (Hull#68) was launched February 20, 1982, at St. Catharines, Ontario by Port Weller Drydocks Ltd.

On 20 February 1903, the straight deck steamer G WATSON FRENCH (steel propeller, 376 foot, 3,785 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. (Hull#608). She lasted until 1964, when she was scrapped by Lakehead Scrap Metal Co. at Fort William, Ontario. The other names she had during her career were b.) HENRY P WERNER in 1924, c.) JOHN J BOLAND in 1937, and d.) ALGOWAY in 1947.

Data from: Jody Aho, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


France claims historic Great Lakes wreck

2/19 - The French government has formally moved to lay claim to one of Canadian history's most important shipwrecks — if, as a U.S. relic hunter believes, the 330-year-old Griffon has been discovered at the bottom of Lake Michigan.

The Griffon, built in 1679 near today's Niagara Falls, Ont., by French explorer Rene-Robert de La Salle, became the first sailing ship on the Great Lakes but was lost in a storm that year on its maiden voyage.

In 2004, U.S. wreck diver Steve Libert discovered remnants of what he suspects is a 17th-century shipwreck at the north end of Green Bay, near the boundary waters of Michigan and Wisconsin.

Experts from Chicago's Field Museum have dated wood samples collected at the wreck site to the era of the Griffon, a 25-metre vessel expected to be the flagship of the fur trade empire New France was building in the fledgling days of the future Canada.

Libert — who is engaged in a legal battle with Michigan's attorney general over the ownership of what could be the "Holy Grail" of Great Lakes shipwrecks — has urged both the French and Canadian governments to back his efforts to explore and possibly recover an iconic ship with deep historical connections to the two countries.

Now, the French embassy in Washington has officially weighed into the controversy by filing a legal claim asserting France's ownership of the wreck if and when the Griffon is found.

"The Republic of France respectfully states that it is the owner of the shipwreck Le Griffon," says a Jan. 27 claim filed in U.S. District Court, "and it has not abandoned its interests in Le Griffon."

The claim further states the ship was "performing sovereign functions at the time of her loss, including as a vessel of exploration and warship."

The French claim has Michigan officials mulling their next move, but has already provoked outrage in the state.

"This could be an important relic for telling Michigan's story," the Detroit News editorialized last week. "France's claim to the vessel is tenuous, and ought to be severed by the courts . . . The Griffon has been sitting in Michigan's waters long enough to have grown Michigan roots."

But the Canadian government's top underwater archeologist told Canwest News Service last April that the Griffon also has a profoundly important place in this country's colonial history.

Robert Grenier — who is currently leading a federal search for two famous British shipwrecks in the Canadian Arctic from the 19th-century Franklin Expedition — said last year that Michigan officials "would like us to do some things'' at the purported Griffon wreck site once the legal issues are resolved.

He called La Salle's ship "one of the Holy Grails of Canadian marine history,'' adding that the fact that the ship "was not built in Europe makes it more attractive'' to scholars documenting Canada's formative years.

Libert said on Tuesday that he is still hoping to settle the legal dispute with Michigan and work at the site with state officials as well as with "France and Canada and for the entire good of underwater archeology."

He added: "To date, the ship hasn't been identified. Michigan is trying to strip that right from my group, the discoverers."

The French government, he said, is simply notifying the other stakeholders that if the wreck turns out to be the Griffon, "France will assert ownership."

La Salle, a controversial but towering presence in 17th-century North America, had already helped establish Fort Frontenac (at present-day Kingston, Ont.) and led the European discovery of Niagara Falls before trying to establish a fur trade network on the Upper Great Lakes.

After the Griffon was built in the summer of 1679, it was sailed across lakes Erie and Huron and into Green Bay. La Salle then turned to overland exploration and sent his flagship back toward Lake Erie, on Sept. 18, 1679, to deliver thousands of furs and other cargo obtained from native traders.

The ship was never seen again, and La Salle was the first of many searchers who failed to turn up traces of the wreck over the centuries.


Coast Guard rescues cold-water surfer on the Great Lakes

2/19 - Marquette, Mich. - U.S. Coast Guard Station Marquette rescued a cold-water surfer Wednesday near the Presque Isle break wall. The Coast Guard rescued the man after receiving notification from the Marquette County Central Dispatch.

Coast Guard rescue personnel, Marquette Fire Dept., local police and emergency medical services officials located the male surfer approximately 400 yards off the break wall. Several large waves swept the man and his surfboard over the break wall into the 33-degree waters of Presque Isle Harbor where he began to paddle to shore.

The exhausted surfer was 150 yards from the shore when Coast Guard rescue personnel entered the frigid water and used a rescue rope to pull him to safety. The surfer collapsed before he reached the shore. Coast Guard personnel transferred him to a waiting EMS ambulance and he was rushed to a local hospital.

Reported by USCG


Port Reports - February 19

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, after slow progress all night, the Algoeast and Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon encountered heavy ice and took a more southerly track, headed North-North East toward Long Point


Updates - February 19

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 19

The b.) TROY H BROWNING, c.) THOMAS F PATTON was towed from the James River with two other C4s, the LOUIS MC HENRY HOWE, b.) TOM M GIRDLER and MOUNT MANSFIELD, b.) CHARLES M. WHITE, to the Maryland Dry Dock Co., Baltimore, Maryland, February 1951, to be converted to a Great Lakes bulk carrier according to plans designed by J.J. Henry & Co., New York, New York.

Wolf & Davidson of Milwaukee sold the JIM SHERIFFS (wooden propeller, 182 foot, 634 gross tons, built in 1883, at Milwaukee, Wisconsin) to Kelley Island Line on 19 February 1887.

Data from: Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Seaway / Welland Canal opening dates announced

2/18 - The opening of the 2009 navigation season is scheduled to take place on the following dates and times:

• Montreal / Lake Ontario - March 31 - 8 a.m.
• Welland Canal - March 31 - 8 a.m.

Vessel transits will be subject to weather and ice conditions. Restrictions may apply in some areas until lighted navigation aids have been installed.

Sault Ste. Marie Locks and Canals United States Soo Locks will open March 25.

Allowable Draft
In the Montreal / Lake Ontario Section, the draft will be 26' 3" until the South Shore Canal is ice-free or April 15th, whichever occurs first, at which time, if water levels are favorable, the draft will be increased to 26' 6" for all vessels. In addition, there will be zero tolerance for ship's draft in excess of 26' 6".

Mariners are reminded that for ships loaded to a draft greater than 26' 3’, speeds will be monitored carefully between St. Lambert Lock and St. Nicolas Island.

In the Welland Canal, a maximum allowable draft of 26' 6" will be in effect from the start of the navigation season for all vessels. In addition, there will be zero tolerance for vessel drafts in excess of 26' 6''.

Please note that, for vessels loaded to a draft greater than 26' 3", speeds will be monitored carefully between the upper entrance to Lock 7 and former Bridge 12 in order to reduce bank erosion in this area.

Reported by: St. Lawrence Seaway Authority


Fort Gratiot Lighthouse's future up to community

2/18 - Port Huron, Mich. - The Fort Gratiot Light isn't just the oldest and historically most important structure in Port Huron, it's a North American treasure. It is the oldest lighthouse on Lake Huron and the oldest surviving lighthouse in Michigan, having guarded the entrance to the St. Clair River since 1829. Unfortunately, if it is to endure another 180 years, the Fort Gratiot Light needs urgent help.

Dennis Zembala, president of the Port Huron Museum, estimates it will cost $450,000 to preserve the rapidly deteriorating structure.

Until last August, visitors could climb to the top of the 86-foot tower, where they were treated to spectacular views of Port Huron. The U.S. Coast Guard decided to close the lighthouse to the public because of the danger posed by spalling bricks that have been peeling away from the tower. Spalling is caused when moisture penetrates a brick. The freeze-thaw cycle gradually, but inexorably, causes the brick to disintegrate.

Once a brick begins to crumble, it must be replaced. There's no reversing the process. When spalling occurs on a massive scale, it suggests poor sealing and a failure of preventive maintenance.

Zembala said Save America's Treasures has pledged a grant of $225,000, or half of what is needed to save the tower. The museum hopes to raise the other $225,000, and this is where your help is so vital.

Fundraising plans include an April 25 gala at the museum. The occasion will mark the debut of the Friends of the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, which is expected to take a lead role in preservation efforts. The Fort Gratiot Light sits in a park-like setting between Lighthouse Beach and the new U.S. Coast Guard Station, which opened in 2004.

The lighthouse acreage also contains several buildings from the old Coast Guard station, which was built in the 1930s when the original U.S. Life-Saving Service station closed on the lakefront midway between Brace and Metcalf roads.

In time, there are plans to restore the old Coast Guard station, perhaps as a unique bed-and-breakfast inn. The property also is the new home of a structure just as old as the lighthouse -- a stick-built hospital dating to 1829 when the U.S. Army rebuilt its frontier garrison at Fort Gratiot.  It will take years and millions of dollars to restore every building on the grounds, but no step is more critical than the first step -- saving the lighthouse tower.

From the Port Huron Times Herald


Marinette Marine hopes for U.S. Navy contract

2/18 - Marinette, Wisc. - Hundreds of jobs could be lost at Marinette Marine Corp. this spring if the shipbuilder doesn't receive a U.S. Navy contract for the next generation of combat ships. The timing could hardly be worse, as northeastern Wisconsin has suffered large job losses in recent months.

With about 700 employees, Marinette Marine is one of the area's largest employers. It has about 170 workers on layoff now, and another 200 could lose their jobs in March and April if the shipyard doesn't get a Navy contract that's been delayed for months.

"It's hugely important to us," CEO Richard McCreary said Monday.

Marinette has built ships on the Great Lakes since 1902. Last year, the company was sold by Manitowoc Co. to Fincantieri Marine Group Holdings Inc., an Italian shipbuilder that produces cruise ships, passenger ferries and motor yachts.

Last fall, Marinette launched the USS Freedom, the first of a new class of speedy, agile Navy warships that can operate in shallow coastal waters. Built in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp., the $550 million ship is meant to be the first of a fleet of 55 similar vessels. But the Navy hasn't awarded further contracts yet.

A decision on the next two ships is expected by mid-March. But it also was expected last summer, then last fall, and finally by year's end - and never happened.  "We are still sitting here, frankly, continuing to polish the same rock," McCreary said. "The project has been funded but, for whatever reasons, the Navy has been holding it up." Contract talks are under way, a Navy spokesman said Monday, declining to say when there would be an outcome.

It's likely that Marinette and its partners will split the contract awards with competitor Austal USA, of Mobile, Ala. Austal executives said they would rather have a guarantee of building 27 ships than a 50% chance of building 54 of them.

"We wouldn't care if we split the contract with Marinette. We anticipate that we will build half of the ships anyway," said Bill Pfister, an Austal executive vice president.

Also Monday, Marinette said it lost a court ruling aimed at blocking a U.S. Coast Guard contract valued at up to $1.5 billion. The company had filed a post-award protest in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking a temporary injunction and restraining order to keep the contract from moving forward at competitor Bollinger Shipyards, of Lockport, La. The restraining order was denied, McCreary said.

"I would say it's probably a dead issue," he said. "We could pursue this further in the courts, but I honestly don't think that we will." The Coast Guard provided no explanation for awarding the contract to Bollinger, even though Marinette said it submitted a lower bid.

Last fall Marinette filed a lengthy appeal of the contract award, but in January the appeal was denied by the Government Accountability Office. "It was important for our employees to know that we were certainly going to try," McCreary said. "But you sometimes have to make the business decision to move on and focus on other things."

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


Public meeting Feb. 26 addresses Sandusky dredging

2/18 - Sandusky, Ohio – The Ohio EPA will have a public information session and hearing at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 in Sandusky. The purpose of the meeting is to accept comments on the water quality impacts associated with a proposal to dispose sediment dredged from Sandusky Harbor in Lake Erie.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is proposing to dredge the federal navigation channels including the Turning Basin, North and South Straight, Bay, Dock and Moseley channels and dispose of the dredged material into designated open lake areas in Lake Erie in the vicinity of Sandusky Bay.

The Corps submitted three alternatives with varying impacts to the lake. The Corps' preferred alternative would dredge an estimated 350,000 cubic yards of material from the harbor and dispose of it at an existing open lake area. If approved, work would occur between June 15, and March 15, 2010, to minimize impacts to fisheries.

During the information session, Ohio EPA representatives will answer questions about the proposed project. During the hearing that will follow the information session the public can submit comments regarding the application.

The federal Clean Water Act requires anyone discharging dredged or fill material into Ohio waters to obtain a Section 401 water quality certification from Ohio EPA and a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Ohio EPA's review is to ensure the project will comply with Ohio's water quality standards. Ohio EPA will consider any comments received before making a decision on the application.

The discharge would result in a change from the current water quality conditions of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay. Therefore, Ohio EPA is required to consider technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the proposed project.

Ohio EPA will accept written comments on the application through March 6. To submit written comments or request to be placed on a mailing list for information, write to: Ohio EPA, Division of Surface Water, Permits Processing Unit, P.O. Box 1049, Columbus, OH 43216-1049.

From The News-Messenger


Updates - February 18

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 18

IMPERIAL ST CLAIR participated in an historic special convoy with DOAN TRANSPORT, which carried caustic soda, led by C.C.G.S. GRIFFON arriving at Thunder Bay, Ontario on February 18, 1977. The journey took one week from Sarnia, Ontario through Lake Superior ice as much as six feet thick, and at one point it took four days to travel 60 miles. The trip was initiated to supply residents of the Canadian Lakehead with 86,000 barrels of heating oil the reserves of which were becoming depleted due to severe weather that winter.

The b.) JOSEPH S YOUNG, a.) ARCHERS HOPE, was towed to the Great Lakes via the Mississippi River and arrived at the Manitowoc Ship Building Co., Manitowoc, Wisconsin on February 18, 1957, where her self unloading equipment was installed. This was the last large vessel to enter the Lakes via the Mississippi. She was the first of seven T-2 tanker conversions for Great Lakes service. Renamed c.) H LEE WHITE in 1969, and d.) SHARON in 1974. SHARON was scrapped at Brownsville, Texas in 1986.

The Murphy fleet was sold on 18 February 1886. The tugs GLADIATOR, KATE WILLIAMS and BALIZE went to Captain Maytham, the tug WILLIAM A MOORE to Mr. Grummond, the schooner GERRIT SMITH to Captain John E. Winn, and the tug ANDREW J SMITH to Mr. Preston Brady.

Data from: Jody Aho, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Salt runs over, Cuyahoga is last of the bulkers to lay-up

2/17 - Sarnia, Ont. - The Cuyahoga departed the Detroit River anchorage about 3 p.m. Monday and headed upbound for winter lay-up. She met the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley in lower Lake St. Clair for escort across the lake and up the St. Clair River. The Risley had escorted the tug Everlast and barge Norman McLeod downbound.

The Cuyahoga arrived in Sarnia around 9:30 p.m. and backed into the Cargill dock along side fleet mate Saginaw. Cuyahoga is the last of the bulk carriers still operating in from the 2008 season, after running the late season salt trade.

Still operating are several tankers and tug and barge units.


Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force tracks Lake Erie ice movements

2/17 - Cleveland, Ohio - The three men peer anxiously over the edge of a tugboat, three miles off Cleveland's downtown shore.

At the end of the line is an 80-pound prize ­ not a monster fish, but a $20,000 sonar that measures ice thickness. It's vital information, if wind turbines are to rise in these waters, near Cleveland's water-intake crib.

Wagner, a veteran diver, would prefer to place the device by hand on the lake bottom, some 60 feet below the idling tugboat. But a dive in the icy waters is risky.

The line slides slowly through Wagner's grip. Colleague David Matthiesen, a Case Western Reserve University professor, stands at Wagner's left shoulder.

Moments later, Wagner feels the sled hit bottom. The impact seems solid, with no tumbling.

Wagner pulls the detached rope back, marks it for depth, then steps to the middle of the tugboat's deck.

He spreads his arms with thumbs up.

The celebration marks another chapter of research grunt work undertaken by the Great Lakes Energy Development Task Force.

Wagner and two others among the nine-men crew are members of the task force, comprised of public, private and academic leaders who aspire to build a modest array of wind turbines and a research center of off-shore wind power.

Many believe turbines will be common someday in Great Lakes waters, where the wind moves faster than on land. The energy task force wants the off-shore wind industry to launch in Northeast Ohio, creating thousands of jobs.

But among many challenges to that vision is the impact of ice on turbines that will tower 250 feet or more over the lake.

The sonar -- essentially, an upside-down fish finder, Wagner says -- will sit till early April, pinging out sound waves that gauge the thickness of ice overhead.

To calculate the power of moving ice, Matthiesen and others at Case's Great Lakes Institute for Energy Innovation will link the data on ice thickness with the movement of ice floes. A camera mounted nearby on the city's water-intake crib is tracking that movement.

"Nobody has this kind of data," said Matthiesen, a task force member. "We've got to have it."

Dropping the sonar was the first of two chores the task force and tugboat crew tackled aboard the Iowa.

The 75-foot tug pulled from its mooring at Great Lakes Towing early Monday afternoon.

With Capt. Brad Sheppard at the helm, the Iowa plowed through an ice-strewn Old River Channel and veered onto the Cuyahoga River.

Past lighthouses that mark the harbor entrance, Sheppard pushed the diesel engines to 11 mph, put his feet up and headed for the crib.

On the tugboat's deck, Bill Eger, the city's energy manager, called the crib a "perfect monitoring station."

"It's been there for over 100 years, in the middle of the lake," said Eger, also a task force member. "It's just a unique platform to measure the potential for wind energy."

The bulky, steel-and-cement crib -- painted a traffic cone orange -- serves as an intake for Cleveland's water supply. But it's also featured a wind-monitoring tower since September 2005.

Data shows the highest, sustained wind speeds ever recorded in Ohio, plenty to drive a wind turbine. But the measured wind shear -- the variation of wind speed with height -- was unexpectedly low.

Wind shear is a key factor in determining the height of a wind turbine. So, the task force decided it needed a second look at the Lake Erie wind. Matthiesen and friends took a tugboat trip in early December to deploy a 600-pound laser on the crib's deck.

On Monday, it was time to take the device down.

The portable LiDAR unit, short for "light detection and ranging," sits on a tripod and looks like a 5-foot-high, three-stage rocket. It shoots an infrared beam in a cone-shaped pattern, tracking the movement of airborne particles to measure wind speed at various heights.

After dropping the sonar device to Lake Erie's bottom, the Iowa nosed over to the crib's southern stairwell.

Wagner, Matthiesen and crew climbed up, toting three blacks cases, each the size of a mini-fridge.

Matthiesen set upon the unit. Several dozen screws came out quickly, and the laser was soon packed away.

The crew muscled the three cases down the stairs and onto the Iowa. The mild temperatures had dropped and the wind picked up as the tug chugged back.

Matthiesen reached into his tool bag and pulled out a baggie.

"Time for the victory peanut butter sandwich," Matthiesen said.

Dropping the sonar, packing the laser, bearing a chilly trip to the crib -- it's all part of the scientific process.

From The Cleveland Plain Dealer


Updates - February 17

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Henry Ford II

Calendar of Events updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 17

In heavy weather on February 17, 1981, the WITSUPPLY, b.) TRANSTREAM foundered in the Caribbean Sea off Cabo de la Vela, Colombia. She was being towed to the scrap yard at Cartagena, Columbia when she sank.

February 17, 1977 - The CITY OF MIDLAND 41 shortly after departing Ludington encountered a heavy ridge of ice that snapped all the blades off her starboard propeller. One of the blades ripped a hole two feet long by three inches wide which caused the 41 to take on water, but pumps were able to keep her afloat. SPARTAN came out to free her but also became mired in the ice. On February 18 the cutter MACKINAW freed them.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Algosteel enters lay-up

2/16 - Owen Sound, Ont. - The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley arrived in Owen Sound harbor at 5 p.m. Sunday clearing the ice in the harbor while Algosteel waited out in the open water. Samuel Risley briefly docked to allow a a man who needed medical attention to be taken to the Hospital by waiting ambulance. Risley then left the docked to resume ice breaking and departed Owen Sound at 5:38 p.m. Algosteel arrived in the harbor at 6:44 p.m. and docked on the east wall in front of Algomarine.

Algosteel was operating late into the season in the salt trade.

Reported by: Jonathan Coote


Coast Guard icebreaker sent to open river

2/16 - Port Maitland, Ont. - The Canadian Coast Guard ship Griffon arrived Sunday to help break up ice in the Grand River, southeast of Hamilton, and release a jam that's caused massive flooding.

The ship pulled into Port Maitland mid-afternoon, after spending several hours clearing space in Lake Erie so there would be room for incoming ice.

Port Maitland, a tiny community located on the north shore of the lake, was evacuated and all its power cut as a precaution. Just up the river in Dunnville, flooding has submerged streets and forced people to flee their homes in search of higher ground.

Dave Schultz of the Grand River Conservation Authority says he's not sure how long it will take for the ship to release the jam. An ice breaker worked for six hours Thursday to unblock a similar situation in Wallaceburg, a town between Sarnia and Chatham, allowing a state of emergency there to be lifted Friday following massive flooding.

From The Canadian Press


Great Lakes shippers touting their green side

2/16 - Toledo, Ohio - Scorned by environmentalists for decades, the Great Lakes shipping industry wants the public to consider its greener side as President Obama calls for more energy efficiency. The industry is circulating a new U.S. Army Corps of Engineers report that suggests the positive environmental impacts and cost savings of Great Lakes shipping have been overlooked when compared to ground-based transportation sectors such as trains and tractor-trailers.

The report also puts a value on Great Lakes shipping at $3.6 billion a year. That's the first time the value of the region's shipping has been quantified in dollars, said Glen G. Nekvasil, vice president of communications for the Lake Carriers' Association, a Cleveland-based trade group that represents ships that move cargo exclusively within the Great Lakes region.

The Great Lakes navigation system "plays a key role in preserving our nation's fuel" by transporting goods more efficiently than any form of ground transportation, according to the report, called "Great Lakes Navigation System: Economic Strength to the Nation."

"For example, a Great Lakes carrier travels 607 miles on one gallon of fuel per ton of cargo. In contrast, a truck travels a mere 59 miles on one gallon of fuel per ton of cargo and a freight train travels only 202 miles on one gallon of fuel per ton of cargo," the report said.

The Corps, which dredges the Great Lakes shipping channel, also credited the industry for releasing fewer greenhouse gases on a pound-by-pound basis.

"A cargo of 1,000 tons transported by a Great Lakes carrier produces 90 percent less carbon dioxide as compared to the same cargo transported by truck and 70 percent less than the same cargo transported by rail," its report said.

The report came on the heels of testimony that James Weakley, Lake Carriers' Association president, delivered to the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Jan. 22 while calling for system improvements as part of the economic stimulus package.

The findings will be used for more lobbying efforts, including the Great Lakes Commission's annual Great Lakes Days with area congressmen Feb. 23-25, Mr. Nekvasil said.

"It's more important than ever that Great Lakes shipping remains viable," he said. "We would certainly hope this is an eye-opener for some people. This is the kind of thing the whole Congress and whole administration [need] to know."

But the National Wildlife Federation, one of several environmental groups that has fought the shipping industry in court over invasive species and other Great Lakes issues, said the industry is premature with its attempted image makeover.

"At least $200 million of damage a year is caused by invasive species, and a large percentage of that has been introduced by the shipping industry," Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation spokesman, said.

Mr. Nekvasil said invasive species have "caused a lot of contentiousness" between environmentalists and the shipping industry, although most of the exotics have been brought to North America by foreign vessels his association doesn't represent.

"They're lumping us all in with everybody," he said.

From The Toledo Blade


Port Reports - February 16

Detroit, Mich. - Ron Piskor
The Cuyahoga completed unloading its last cargo of salt at the Morton facility on the Rouge River Sunday morning. After a complete deck washdown by her crew she backed out of the Rouge and into the Detroit River where she went to anchore just above Fighting Island. She was waiting into the night for an icebreaker escort to Sarnia and the end to her long shipping season.

Buffalo, Ny. - Brian W
The Buffalo River has flushed itself of all the heavy ice since the fire tug Edward M. Cotter made her ice breaking trips last week. The lakefront is another story entirely. Heavy wind rowed ice is piled up outside the Buffalo Breakwall, the highest peaks appear to be roughly twice the height of the Outer Harbor Seawall.

Toronto, Ont. - Charlie Gibbons
Unloading of the cement storage cargo on the barge Metis is scheduled to begin Monday.


Updates - February 16

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Henry Ford II

Calendar of Events updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 16

The EDWIN H GOTT sailed on her maiden voyage February 16, 1979, in ballast from Milwaukee, bound for Two Harbors, Minnesota. This was the first maiden voyage of a laker ever in mid-winter. She was in convoy with three of her fleet mates; CASON J CALLAWAY, PHILIP R CLARKE and JOHN G MUNSON, each needing assistance from the U.S.C.G.C. MACKINAW to break through heavy ice 12 to 14 inches thick the length of Lake Superior. The GOTT took part in a test project, primarily by U.S. Steel, to determine the feasibility of year around navigation.

The JAMES E FERRIS was launched February 16, 1910, as the ONTARIO (Hull#71) at Ecorse, Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works. On February 16, 1977, a four hour fire caused major damage to the crews' forward quarters aboard the W W HOLLOWAY while at American Ship Building's South Chicago yard.

February 16, 1939 - The state ferry CHIEF WAWATAM was fast in the ice in the Straits of Mackinac. She freed herself the next day and proceeded to St. Ignace.

The little tug JAMES ANDERSON burned on Long Lake near Alpena, Michigan on the morning of 16 February 1883. Arson was suspected.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports - February 15

Straits of Mackinac - Fred Stone
The Algosteel was eastbound Saturday afternoon return from Milwaukee. She is headed to Owen Sound for winter lay-up. Algosteel was escorted through the straits by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, the cutter was expected to return to Sault Ste. Marie.

Kingston, Ont. - Brian Johnson
The tug Vigilant I and barge S/VM 86 are operating again in Kingston harbor. On Tuesday the tug Lac Manitoba developed propeller problems and had to tie up for three days. This delayed the ferry run for heavy equipment normally transported on the Vigilant I and barge which needs the assistance of the smaller tug in ice. By Thursday afternoon divers repaired the prop damage on the Lac Manitoba and the operation returned to normal. There are two tracks leading to Wolfe Island this winter – one for the ferry Wolfe Islander III to Marysville and the other to the Dawson Point ferry terminal for the Windmill Turbine Project equipment by the tug Vigilant I. There are about 45 wind turbines standing on Wolfe Island. The CREC project is a subsidiary of Canadian Hydro.

Halifax - Mac Mackay
Spruceglen departed port late on February 13. She had arrived January 12 and spent all but her last day in the Novadock floating drydock. The Algosea entered the Scotiadock II floating drydock earlier in the week and will get a hull repainting and other work.


Updates - February 15

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 15

In 1961, the HARRY R JONES, a.) D G KERR arrived at her final port of Troon, Scotland where she was cut up for scrap the same year.

Data from: Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports - February 14

Detroit, Mich. - Ron Piskor
The Cuyahoga was back in action from its mini lay-up Friday night, delivering salt to Morton on the Rouge River. According to Morton, the vessel will make one more round trip back from Windsor after Friday and then head to Sarnia for winter lay-up.

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
Friday afternoon the Algoeast was loaded at the Esso terminal and underway without icebreaker assistance. At 2:45 p.m. she reported being at Long Point in open water.


2009 S/S Badger Boatnerd Gathering Cruise

2/14 - On Saturday, May 30 BoatNerd is pleased to again offer the Boatnerd Badger Gathering, a round-trip crossing of Lake Michigan from Ludington, Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, aboard the Lake Michigan Carferry S/S Badger.

Join us in traveling on the only coal-fired steamer left on the Great Lakes. Visit the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc and see the operating restored forward engine from the legendary railroad ferry Chief Wawatam, and the WWII submarine Cobia, or go on the optional Wisconsin Shoreline Cruise aboard the Badger.

Great Lakes singer/songwriter Lee Murdoch will be on board to offer entertainment both ways across the lake.

On Friday night, May 29, we have arranged a special Badger Boatel B&B to stay aboard the steamer on the night prior to the cruise. Reservations for staterooms are limited. This optional part of the gathering includes a Continental breakfast on Saturday morning and may offer pilothouse and engine room tours on Friday evening.

See the Boatnerd Gathering Page for complete details and sign up form. Reservations must be received no later than May 9. Don’t miss out on this fun Gathering.

Click here for more information


Updates - February 14

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery

Calendar of Events updated

Gatherings page updated with the Detroit River Cruise information

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - USCG look out stations


Today in Great Lakes History - February 14

The MESABI MINER (Hull#906) was launched on this day in 1977, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. becoming the fourth thousand foot bulk carrier on the Great Lakes and Interlake's second. She had been built under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1970 at a cost of $45.1 million.

Ford Motor Co., looking to expand its fleet, purchased the JOSEPH S WOOD, a.) RICHARD M MARSHALL on February 14, 1966, for $4.3 million and renamed her c.) JOHN DYKSTRA. In 1983, she was renamed d.) BENSON FORD. Renamed e.) US.265808, in 1985, she was scrapped at Recife, Brazil in 1987.

On February 14, 1973, the LEADALE’s forward cabins burned during winter lay-up at Hamilton, Ontario and were later repaired. Built in 1910, at Great Lakes Engineering Works (Hull#77) as a,) HARRY YATES, for the American Steamship Co. renamed b.) CONSUMERS POWER in 1934, c.) FRED A MANSKE in 1958 and d.) LEADALE in 1962. Scrapped at Cartagena, Columbia in 1979.

Data from: Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Shallow water at harbor slows service in 2008

2/13 - St. Joseph, Mich. - The volume of commodities delivered to the St. Joseph River Harbor fell sharply in 2008 as shallow water put two commercial docks out of the reach of ships for months. The 35.2 percent drop in tonnage from the previous year was no surprise to Harbormaster Larry LaValley.

"Most of the year was wasted because we didn't have adequate water to navigate the inner harbor," LaValley said.

Receipts of limestone, sand, cement and other material, most of it used in construction, fell from 633,543 tons in 2007 to 410,192 tons last year.

Central Dock in Benton Harbor and Dock 63 on Marina Island in St. Joseph could not be reached by ships until early August. By that time emergency dredging had removed enough material from the harbor bottom for safe passage. A massive shoaling problem developed last winter and was detected in mid-March when a barge carrying 5,000 tons of sand bound for Central Dock ran aground east of the Blossomland Bridge. Soon after, soundings conducted by the Army Corps of Engineers revealed that areas in the channel that had 19 feet of water in December 2007 were reduced to 6 to 7 feet.

Depth is supposed to be maintained at 21 feet on the inner harbor. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton worked to get the Army Corps to declare an emergency and $1.8 million was obtained for a dredging project that removed 177,000 tons of material from the harbor bottom. Great Lakes Dock & Materials of Muskegon was awarded the contract for the work, which started in April and concluded in October.

Central Dock President John Kinney said additional time could have been lost to shippers when torrential rains in September created additional silting problems.

But the dredging company that completed the summer project still had equipment on the harbor and was able to remove an additional 29,000 cubic yards of material. Central Dock's volume was down about two-thirds for the year, Kinney said, and shallow water was not the only cause.

"One big problem we had was the shipping companies. They kind of wrote this harbor off," Kinney said. "They went to others that weren't having problems." The large volume of material received in November "was the only thing that saved us," he said. "We got a good slug of stone and sand then."

The Lafarge Corp. dock in St. Joseph, which is farther downstream than Central and Dock 63, was somewhat affected by shoaling but remained accessible. "They would have preferred larger cargoes but they could operate all year," he said.

LaValley's annual report on harbor activity shows that 45 vessels docked during 2008.

Lafarge received 20 ships of bulk cement, a total of 142,125 tons; Dock 63 received 13 ships carrying limestone, stone, sand and road salt, 165,448 tons total; and Central got in 12 vessels carrying limestone, sand and slag, 102,620 tons total. In 2007, the three docks received 67 ships delivering 633,543 tons of material, up from the 2006 totals of 60 ships and 537,471 tons.

LaValley concluded that the severe shoaling of the winter of 2007-08 was an act of God that could not be predicted or prevented.

However, navigation problems could be reduced if a schedule could be established to provide dredging annually in the outer harbor and every other year in the inner harbor. Because the harbor receives commercial shipping, harbor maintenance costs are covered by the federal government through the Army Corps.

Funding is provided annually for the outer harbor but only sporadically for the inner harbor. The turning basin has not been dredged for years, forcing ships to back out of the harbor. LaValley said the St. Joseph River Harbor Authority has asked the Corps to conduct soundings as soon as possible this year to allow more time to seek additional funding, if needed

Reported by: Herald Palladium


Port Reports - February 13

Monroe, Mich. - Dave Myers
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Neah Bay transited Lake Erie Thursday to assist in Monroe, Mich., by breaking ice dams in the River Rasin, however the vessel was delayed by high winds and did not make it into the river. The same winds that delayed the Neah Bay helped mother nature break up the ice dam and the river level was dropping on Thursday. The Neah Bay reached the area and turned back Thursday afternoon.

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
After escorting the Algoeast into Nanticoke to load on Thursday, the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon was underway to Amherstburg, Ont. She was about 12 miles SW of Long Point at noon on Thursday.

Buffalo, NY - Brian W.
The firetug Edward M. Cotter made her way up the Buffalo River for an ice breaking mission Tuesday morning to the Buckeye Product Terminal. This dock is located at the head of navigation just below the old DL&W draw bridge between Elk Street and South Park Avenue, roughly 6 miles from the lake. Heavy ice conditions above the South Park Lift Bridge kept the Cotter busy for most of the morning. This section of the river is near the outlet of Cazenovia Creek where ice jams had been forming for a day or so. The fireboat was also held up at the CSX Railroad's C.P. Draw bridge for about an hour due to train traffic and she did not return to her Michigan Street dock until 3 p.m.


Clock is ticking on Port McNicoll waterfront landmark

2/13 - Port McNicoll, Ont.  - In six weeks, a community's waterfront will change. Almost 100 years after the first concrete was poured, the Port McNicoll grain elevator is being demolished. Looming like a fortress over Severn Sound for almost a century, the grain elevator is arguably the most recognized and prominent feature in this small Georgian Bay village.

It is a reminder of an era when steam ruled and industry was the backbone of many harbours and ports on the Great Lakes. It is the end of an age to which Port McNicoll owes its very existence.

In the late 1800s, the Canadian Pacific Railway was searching for a shorter route to transport western wheat. After a number of proposals and delays of several years, a site was finalized and surveyed in 1905. The CPR built a new rail line to bring in the materials needed for construction and, eventually, to haul grain.

In May 1909, the CPR entered into an agreement with the John S. Metcalf Company of Chicago-Montreal to construct a 2.2-million-bushel grain elevator on Georgian Bay near the existing community of Victoria Harbour. Maple Island was selected as the optimum site for a concrete-and-steel storehouse.

Initially, a wooden trestle connected the island to the mainland. This was filled in as the structure took shape. Ninety teams of horses and hundreds of labourers worked tirelessly so that, by the fall of 1910, the elevator unloaded the first ship.

The CPR had created a new settlement honouring its vice-president, David McNicoll. Soon, speculators touted that this new operation would rival other great port cities.

The elevator was expanded in 1912 and in 1927, bringing the total storage capacity to almost seven million bushels.

The plant was one of the fastest and most modern unloading elevators on the lakes, handling a staggering 59 million bushels in 1921. More than 165 people were employed during peak times, working day and night handling a large portion of Canada’s grain crop. Grain unloaded from ships was loaded into boxcars for shipment east.

The construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1957 greatly impacted the elevator’s significance as a short cut for the transportation of grain, but it continued to operate, although business was greatly reduced. In 1989, the cancellation of a federal rail subsidy meant the end of the line for the CPR in Port McNicoll, and the elevator closed in 1990. Grain receipts totaled an impressive 1.5 billion bushels.

Skyline International Development purchased the elevator site and the remainder of the CPR lands, with plans to develop the property as a four-season resort village and community. The elevator’s disappearance marks the end of a colourful and exciting era, but opens the door to a time when Port McNicoll’s vibrant potential may be realized once again.

Reported by: Midland Mirror


Updates - February 13

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery

Calendar of Events updated

Gatherings page updated with the Detroit River Cruise information

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - USCG look out stations


Today in Great Lakes History - February 13

The POINTE NOIRE was launched February 13, 1926, as a.) SAMUEL MATHER (Hull#792) at Lorain, Ohio by the American Ship Building Co.

February 13, 1897 - The PERE MARQUETTE (later named PERE MARQUETTE 15) arrived in Ludington on her maiden voyage. Captain Joseph "Joe" Russell in command.

Data from: Max Hanley, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Neah Bay works to prevent flooding

2/12 - Cleveland, Ohio - The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Neah Bay departed Cleveland Wednesday morning to break ice in the Grand River near Fairport, Ohio. The 140-foot multi-mission, ice breaking cutter was assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with flood mitigation on Ohio's rivers.

The transit down and up the Grand River was to alleviate flooding in communities along the river caused by melting ice, recent rains and the ice jams that remained up river. At 12:30 p.m. the river was reported to be moving again. Neah Bay was expected to continue on to Ashtabula and Conneaut, Ohio, to assess the need for flood assistance.

In Western Lake Erie, the River Rasin, near Monroe, Mich. reached flood stage on Wednesday morning due to ice dams and heavy rain. A coast guard ice breaker is expected to assist on Thursday. River levels were at 9.4 feet early Wednesday morning and rising, with expected fluctuations of between 9 and 10 feet. The river's flood stage is considered at 9 feet.


Port Reports - February 12

Port Huron, Mich.
Wednesday the Algowood ended its season, arriving in Sarnia's North Slip for lay-up. The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock was upbound in the river escorting the Algonova. Wednesday night the Algonova and Algosar were anchored in lower Lake Huron.


Updates - February 12

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery


Today in Great Lakes History - February 12

RED WING was launched February 12, 1944, as a.) BOUNDBROOK (Hull#335) at Chester, Pennsylvania by Sun Shipbuilding & Drydock Co., a T2-SE-A1 Ocean Tanker. She was renamed b.) IMPERIAL EDMONTON in 1947. In 1959, she was brought to Port Weller Drydocks for conversion to a bulk freighter for Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd., renamed c.) RED WING. Scrapped at Kaohsiung, Taiwan in 1987.

Data from: Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Lakes shipping slump still severe in January

2/11 - Cleveland, Ohio - U.S. Flag cargo movement on the Great Lakes fell below 1 million net tons in January for likely the first time since the recession of the mid-1980s. Looking at just the past five years, the 919,000 net tons of cargo hauled this January represent decreases that range from 73 to 80 percent.

For the first time in several years, no iron ore will move in February. In recent years, the port of Escanaba, Michigan, which is located below the Soo Locks, has shipped a few cargos in February.

Lake Carriers’ Association


Economic stimulus could get ships moving

2/11 - Duluth, Minn - If your business is shipping, there is little to celebrate in a moored boat. Adolph Ojard could measure the depth of the recession last fall by how early some of the Great Lakes' ore carriers called it a season. "We actually had two ships lay up in November -- the end of November -- and that hasn't happened for many years," recalled the executive director of the Duluth Seaway and Port Authority.

A dozen ships are currently laid up for winter in Duluth. Because of the economy, Ojard, the executive director of the Duluth Seaway and Port Authority, expects several to hit open water later than normal this spring. He says two of them will likely not sail at all this year, "because the market has dropped so significantly in terms of steel production."

That's part of the reason both the Twin Ports and the Iron Range have something to celebrate in the newly passed economic stimulus plan: specifically language that requires the use of American iron and steel in projects built from stimulus dollars.

"It will mean more iron ore production," explains Ojard, "and it will mean an increase in activity over what we have forecast for the 2009 shipping season."

After a strong start, ore shipments from Duluth slowed in the second half of 2008, finishing the year at 18.5 million tons -- down from 20 million tons in 2007. On the Iron Range meantime, the state's iron mines and taconite plants were cutting production, with U.S. Steel's Keetac mine and plant at Keewatin being idled indefinitely.

Critics say the "Buy American" language in the stimulus plan smacks of protectionism and could result in other countries putting up barriers to U.S. products. Craig Pagel, president of the Iron Mining Association of Minnesota sees it differently.

"Japanese public TV called me and I suggested we need to keep our people working so we have good salaries so we can buy their products as well."

Pagel will be watching closely as the Range-friendly stimulus bill advances to a House and Senate conference committee. Meantime, if better days lie ahead, Adolph Ojard will measure those too through the ships. "Happiness is ships moving -- not sitting," he says.

Reported by KARE 11 News


Coast Guard assists Corps of Engineers with flood mitigation

2/11 - Cleveland, Ohio - The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hollyhock assisted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with flood mitigation on Ohio's Grand River Tuesday. The cutter Neah Bay is scheduled to assist on Wednesday.

Hollyhock and Neah Bay's efforts are an attempt to alleviate flooding in communities along the river caused melting ice, recent rain and the ice jams that remain upriver.

Hollyhock assessed the ice formation at the mouth of the Grand River Tuesday and provided logistics to USACE. Neah Bay was scheduled to get underway Tuesday evening and provide support at first-light on Wednesday. The goal of this flood-preventative measure to get ice out of the river and into Lake Erie.

The Coast Guard Cutter Katmai Bay, homeported in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., assisted the USACE, Sunday, with flood mitigation along Western Michigan's Grand River.

Flood and storm damage reduction is a mission of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Coast Guard provides support to USACE when requested and when a cutter is available.

Reported by : USCG


Lake Erie ice-condition warnings adequate, Coast Guard says

2/11 - Cleveland, Ohio - The Coast Guard does not plan to change policies regarding warning fishermen about ice conditions on Lake Erie despite Saturday's large-scale rescue due to ice melt.

The rescue effort, which Ottawa County Sheriff Robert Bratton estimated cost local fire departments alone about $20,000, successfully retrieved 134 people from a drifting floe on western Lake Erie.

A 65-year-old New Albany man who fell into the icy water and was pulled to safety later died of a heart attack.

Some said the Coast Guard should have put up signs warning of the dangerous conditions, Petty Officer William Mitchell said Sunday.

"The sun was out and it was 60 degrees - that is your sign," he said.

The rescue could have been much worse, a veteran fishing guide said.

"If the National Weather Service had not broadcast warnings on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, there could have been 1,500 fishermen on the ice [off Crane Creek State Park in Oak Harbor], not 500," said guide Pat Chrysler of Put-in-Bay, in a phone interview Sunday from South Bass Island.

"You have to give accolades to the National Weather Service and the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as all the fire rescue units like the Jerusalem Township Fire Department. They were right on top of the situation."

The full cost of the rescue is not known. The Coast Guard does not estimate the cost of rescues as policy, Mitchell said.

"We do not put a price on life. These people we were saving were already paying us through their tax dollars," he said.

A Coast Guard helicopter continued the rescue effort on Sunday.

It was on the scene at 10 a.m., touring the western Lake Erie ice in a search for any stranded ice fishermen.

There were no more rescues, Mitchell said.

Many vehicles left behind Saturday by fishermen as they were rescued were hauled from the ice on Sunday by local air-boat operators. The Coast Guard and local fire department rescue squads rescue fishermen, but do not retrieve equipment.

A pack of about 300 fishermen were on stable ice along the west side of South Bass Island on Sunday morning, where the ice is about 14 inches thick.

"It's an honest 14 inches," Chrysler said. "I measured it with a Stanley tape measure, just to be accurate."

Some ice fishermen still chose to venture into risky areas to fish for walleye on Sunday, though the winds were relatively calm and cold overnight temperatures solidified puddles of water on the ice.

It may have been their last day on the ice for a while, though, as temperatures are predicted to climb to near 60 degrees on Tuesday, and overnight lows will stay in the upper 30s and 40s.

Lake Erie fishermen frequently target the Starve and Mouse island areas, even though the current in those spots can create dangerously thin ice.

Anglers are still heading a few miles northwest of Catawba Island State Park on all-terrain vehicles. Chrysler said his customers must fly over from the Port Clinton airport.

"I don't want anything to do with fishermen who arrive on ATVs," said Chrysler. "I worry that they might drive into a fog or snowstorm on the way back to the mainland. It's too dangerous."

Veteran fishermen have been wary of the Lake Erie ice cover.

The ice was generally about three inches thick before a recent storm that dumped about 15 inches of snow on the region. The snow insulated the ice and turned it into slush, which froze with the arrival of subzero temperatures. That type of cloudy ice is not as strong as new clear, blue ice.

Reported by: The Cleveland Plain Dealer


Port Reports - February 11

Goderich, Ont. - Dale Baechler
The Algosteel arrived at Sifto Salt on Saturday and departed on Sunday. It appears that the Goderich 2008 shipping season has come to a close.


Updates - February 11

News Photo Gallery updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 11

On 11 February 1994, the tug MARY E HANNAH and an empty fuel barge became trapped in the ice in the Pelee Passage on Lake Erie. The vessels were freed by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter NEAH BAY and the Canadian Coast Guard ship SAMUEL RISLEY.

The E B BARBER (Hull#111) was launched in 1953, at Port Arthur, Ontario by Port Arthur Ship Building Co. Ltd.

The NIXON BERRY was sold to Marine Salvage for scrap on in 1970, she was the former a.) MERTON E FARR.

BEN W CALVIN (Hull#388) was launched in 1911, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

The keel was laid for the ROY A JODREY (Hull#186) on February 11, 1965, at Collingwood, Ontario by Canadian Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. The tanker IMPERIAL CORNWALL was retired on February 11, 1971.

Albert Edgar Goodrich, the founder of the Goodrich Steamboat Line, was born in Hamburg, New York, near Buffalo on 11 February 1826.

Data from: Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


U.S. flag lakes shipping down 3 percent in 2008

2/10 - Cleveland, Ohio - A 40-percent drop in cargo movement in December wiped out earlier gains and produced a 3-percent decrease in U.S.-Flag shipping on the Great Lakes in 2008. The 101 million net tons of dry-bulk cargo transported by U.S.-Flag lakers in 2008 also represented a 4.5 percent decrease from the trade’s 5-year average.

The iron ore trade finished in a virtual tie with a year ago ¬ 47.2 million net tons. Yet as late as November, shipments of iron ore in U.S. hulls were up by 2.2 million net tons. The iron ore trade crumbled in December.

At 25 million net tons, coal shipments represent a small decrease from 2007. However, the 18 million net tons of low sulfur coal loaded at Superior Midwest Energy Terminal in Superior, Wisconsin set a new benchmark for the U.S.-Flag Lakes fleet.

Limestone loadings finished the year at 23.6 million net tons, a decrease of 9 percent compared to 2007. However, compared to the fleet’s 5-year average for stone, cargos were off more than 14 percent. The trade was sluggish all year, primarily because of the decline in heavy construction and the housing market. Then, in December, with steel mills banking furnaces, the fluxstone market collapsed too.

Of the other dry-bulk commodities carried by the fleet, only salt held even with 2007. Cement, sand, and grain were all down compared to 2007.

Lake Carriers’ Association


Katmai Bay departs Grand Haven

2/10 - Grand Haven, Mich. - Local officials said an ice-breaking trip up the Grand River on Sunday was a success. "It's breaking up the ice like it's butter," observed Capt. Rick Yonker of the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety as the U.S. Coast Guard vessel Katmai Bay sliced through the river ice in the early afternoon.

Both Yonker and Grand Haven Mayor Roger Bergman, who was also along for the ride, said they were grateful for the Coast Guard's quick response and assistance in the effort ¬ which would hopefully prevent flooding and ice jam problems.

The 140-foot Coast Guard ice-breaking tug Katmai Bay tied up at Government Basin about 8:30 a.m. Sunday after being diverted from ice-breaking duties in the Straits of Mackinac. The vessel left the dock at 1 p.m. to make a trip upriver, then turned around just before the railroad bridge.

The Katmai Bay's commanding officer, Lt. Glen Moscatello, said the tug was going through ice which was mostly 2-3 inches thick, with a little thicker ice closer to the railroad bridge. The boat traveled at about 12.5 knots on the trip back downstream "to throw a big wake and break up more ice," Moscatello said.

The Katmai Bay then went back out onto Lake Michigan to turn around before returning to its mooring in front of Coast Guard Station Grand Haven.

Residents of the Tri-Cities area lined the Katmai Bay's route up the Grand River to catch a glimpse of the ship at work.

On Sunday, Moscatello said he was considering another run up the river for this morning. But based on his assessment of the river conditions and predicted warm temperatures, the trip was unnecessary ¬ said Lt. Cmdr. Rob Hemp, commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Sector Field Office Grand Haven. The Katmai Bay departed on Monday afternoon north bound on Lake Michigan.

Local officials requested help from the Coast Guard when the recent change in weather made it look like weather conditions were going to be optimal for a possible ice jam and flooding farther upriver. They were scheduled to meet this afternoon to discuss the Katmai Bay's efforts and other ways to prevent ice jams.

The tug's job was to break up ice in the channel to help prevent a backup of water in the river and bayous, as was experienced following a December 2008 thaw that caused an estimated $2.9 million in damages in Ottawa County.

Yonker said the plan was to cut a 75-foot-wide swath in the ice, both up and down the river from Lake Michigan to the railroad bridge. "This is to make sure it is clear enough for the ice to have free flow to Lake Michigan" if it breaks free farther upriver, Yonker said.

Officials had requested the ice be broken as far as the U.S. 31 bascule bridge, but the area is not wide enough for a vessel that size, Hemp said.

A record-setting 50 degrees was recorded in Grand Rapids on Saturday, with the Lakeshore area in the 40s. After weeks of frigid temperatures and lots of snowfall, the thaw is releasing the equivalent of 2-3 inches of water into the river system, the National Weather Service reported. The thaw is expected to continue throughout the week, with up to an inch of rain expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yonker said there is a lot of pack ice just upriver from the bascule bridge, and much of the chunks are 4-6 inches thick. That, combined with a lot of debris in the river ¬ such as trees and stumps ¬ "may potentially block things at the bridge or bridges," Yonker said.

"There's no guarantee that anything we do will work," Yonker said. "But we want to prevent (flooding and damage from the ice) from occurring."

Yonker said he had checked areas around the bascule bridge on Saturday, but had not noted any rise in the river level. Farther upstream, though, the water levels were rising.

A decision was made Friday by the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety and the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department Emergency Management Division to proceed with an action plan. With assistance from the Michigan State Police Emergency Division and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, a Coast Guard cutter was requested to break ice in the Grand River.

"Utilizing the Coast Guard cutter to break the ice in the Grand River from Lake Michigan upstream to the railroad bridge will help facilitate access for any heavy equipment that may need to be brought in, should an ice jam occur at the railroad bridge and/or the U.S. 31 drawbridge," Yonker noted in a GHDPS press release. "It will also provide an open channel for the ice and debris to freely flow to Lake Michigan. Emergency management officials are uncertain if an ice jam will occur, but want to be prepared as much as possible if such an event takes place."

The trip to Grand Haven was better, Moscatello said. Although they ran into a "little weather, the seas were good on the way down."

Moscatello said they sat outside the Grand Haven pier heads at daybreak before working their way through ice up to 3-4 feet thick to get into the harbor.

The cost of the ice-breaking effort will be absorbed by the Coast Guard, Yonker said Sunday. "This is what they do," he said.

Reported by: Grand Haven Tribune


Iron Range's new mining projects stay on track

2/10 - Undaunted by plummeting ore prices and a faltering steel industry, several multimillion-dollar mining initiatives continue to march forward on Minnesota's Iron Range. Tony Robson, an analyst for BMO Capital Markets, said global iron ore pellet contract prices are expected to tumble by 20 percent to 40 percent in 2009. But Peter Kakela, a Michigan State University taconite industry analyst, pointed out that pellet prices are declining from record highs and still look to remain historically strong. As tough as conditions may be at present, the ongoing interest in new Iron Range projects indicates that at least some in the industry remain bullish about the long-term prospects for profitable iron-mining ventures in northern Minnesota. So far, Chris Nelson, mining section manager of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, said he has seen no sign of anyone easing up on efforts to obtain needed permits for proposed mining developments in the region. "They all still seem to be high-priority projects," he said. "I haven't seen anyone stepping back or slowing their demand for permits." The first of these projects likely to become reality involves reclaiming iron found in old mine tailings.

Just this past week, Magnetation Inc. began processing tailings near Keewatin with a mobile unit capable of operating on a commercial basis, said Larry Lehtinen, the company's chairman. The operation is fully permitted, and Lehtinen said he expects to begin full commercial production of iron concentrate in a matter of weeks. He already has a customer, also a start-up operation, lined up to receive the material. With the help of a proprietary patent-pending process, Magnetation aims to reprocess tailings from old natural ore mines that were active on the Range until the 1950s. These tailings often contain an iron content of 30 percent to 45 percent. Lehtinen believes the portable processing unit his company has constructed will be capable of producing 225,000 metric tons of iron concentrate per year. Iron concentrate is the primary component of iron ore pellets, but it also can be used to produce slab steel or iron nuggets. All told, Lehtinen anticipates Magnetation will have sunk $9 million into the project by the time it's in full commercial production. The company currently employs about 20 people directly and an equal number of contractors, he said.

Construction of Mesabi Nugget in the Aurora/Hoyt Lakes area has continued unabated this winter, said Dave Bednarz, vice president of iron resources for Steel Dynamics Inc., a primary investor in the project. "We know this project is a bit of an anomaly ¬ that we should still be moving full steam ahead despite the current state of the steel industry," he said. But Bednarz explained that SDI considers the plant a critical future source of feed for electric-arc steel minimills it operates. He expects to see Mesabi Nugget begin production by August or September. The facility still is awaiting permits needed to begin mining operations anew on property that was formerly home to LTV Steel. But in the interim, Lehtinen said Magnetation has agreed to supply iron concentrate to Mesabi Nugget's rotary hearth, enabling it to begin churning out nuggets. The $250 million facility is expected to employ about 65 people initially and possibly more if additional processing units are built as anticipated. While New York steel analyst Chuck Bradford remains skeptical that the economic stimulus emerging from Congress will do much for producers of iron ore pellets, he said it could be much more beneficial for outfits such as Mesabi Nugget, which supply feed to the minimills that produce most of the nation's steel construction components. When asked whether the stimulus package presents an opportunity for SDI, Bednarz said: "Absolutely. SDI is a significant producer of structural steel, rebar, sheet piling, bars, joists and more."

Before the meltdown of the steel industry in late 2008, two longtime Iron Range fixtures announced plans to step up iron ore pellet production. U.S. Steel unveiled a proposal to sink $300 million into Keewatin's Keetac pellet facility, increasing its annual production there from about 6 million to 9.6 million tons ¬ a 60 perceent bump. The company projected the expansion would lead to the hiring of another 75 people, bringing Keetac's total work force to about 475 people. Shortly afterward, Cliffs Natural Resources laid out plans to invest $104 million to expand its processing facility in Forbes in hopes of boosting output by 13 percent, or about 700,000 additional tons of pellets per year. Nelson said MPCA's permitting work for both of these projects has not let up. Maureen Talarico, a spokeswoman for Cliffs, confirmed that her company remains committed to the United Taconite expansion plans. But she added that those efforts are continuing "at a little less rapid pace than originally anticipated." Cliffs Natural Resources earlier issued a forecast that its iron ore pellet production in 2009 will decline 39 percent from last year's levels. U.S. Steel communications director D. John Armstrong did not respond to the News Tribune's request for an update on the Keetac project, but the company has made no indication it plans to hold off on the expansion. U.S. Steel had hoped to begin work on the construction in 2009, but it still is awaiting needed permits. If either project receives permits, it will start the clock ticking. Permits remain good for 18 months, and continuous construction must begin before that time elapses or else the permitting process will have to begin anew.

By far the largest proposed project on the Range is a $1.65 billion slab steel plant Essar Steel plans to build near Nashwauk. With necessary permits already in hand, Essar Steel Minnesota has begun site work, according to Debra McGovern, director of government and public affairs for the company. She said property for a plant has been cleared, dewatered, surveyed, and the first piece of foundation is now in the ground. McGovern believes Essar is on track to open the first component of its operations ¬ a taconite plant ¬ by late 2010. She said a slab mill cl could follow and begin operation as soon as 2013. When completed, Essar Steel Minnesota, the state's first slab steel mill operation, is expected to employ about 500 people. "Everything appears to be moving forward," McGovern said.

Reported by: Duluth News Tribune


Coast Guard icebreakers not a factor in creating Saturday's ice floe

2/10 - Cleveland, Ohio - Mother Nature - not a Coast Guard cutter - caused a huge ice floe to break away on Lake Erie this weekend and strand more than 100 fishermen, officials said.

Despite reports from fishermen that the cutter Mackinaw had been in the area at 9 a.m. Saturday, less than two hours before the first reports of danger, the Coast Guard said Monday there were no cutters working in the area. None had been there the previous two weeks.

The Mackinaw came close to the scene mid-day Saturday in case its help was needed, but was cleared to head on to the Detroit area.

"It's something people tend to do -- they look to place blame," said Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Dave French. "But it's not the Coast Guard. We only came to help people."

The Coast Guard blamed warm weather and winds for the trouble.

More than 130 fishermen were rescued Saturday from an ice floe about eight miles long that broke apart in western Lake Erie near the Lake Erie islands.

One man from the Columbus area who had been fishing on lake ice died of a heart attack after nearly finding his way to shore on his own. A family member who had been fishing with him told the Columbus Dispatch that they were never on the floe but were headed to shore because of the thawing and because they saw helicopters in the rescue. The man collapsed about 200 yards from shore and was taken by a Coast guard helicopter to Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, where he was pronounced dead.

George A. Leshkevich, manager of Great Lakes Coastwatch, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said wind was likely the main culprit in the ice floe.

He said Lake Erie ice "moves around quite dynamically, especially in warm, windy conditions."

On Saturday, it was both warm and windy. Temperatures hit 52 degrees and wind gusted up to nearly 30 miles per hour. Leshkevich also confirmed what Coast Guard and local safety officials had said: a strong southwest wind had pushed the western end of an 8-mile long ice floe north and east, increasingly widening a moat, or water gap, stranding hundreds of anglers.

But the wind also caused the floe to pivot on an axis on its eastern end toward Port Clinton, which allowed many others to make it back to the mainland without having to be rescued.

"The crack was much wider to the west, but it touched together at an eastern point where people could evacuate," said Executive Petty Officer Gregory Zerfass of the Coast Guard Marblehead Station. "The ones that had to be rescued were the ones who couldn't drive 10 to 15 miles east to get off the ice floe."

Warm temperatures continued melting the ice Monday. Jerusalem Township Fire Chief Harold Stanton said only a few fisherman dared to tread on the ice.

He said the crack has remained about 200 feet wide and is surrounded by mushy ice.

"There aren't any safe places left," he said.

The National Weather Service predicted rain and temperatures above 50 degrees for today and Wednesday, which will melt ice further.

Fishermen hired airboat operators to collect gear left behind in the hasty rescue Saturday.

A rescue crew used air bags to lift an air boat off the bottom of Lake Erie about 3/4-mile from shore. The air boat took water over its bow Saturday while coming off the ice and into open water. It sank quickly. The boat was carrying an angler and his ATV off the ice floe. One man was reported in the water, but quickly rescued and placed in an ice shanty with a propane heater to warm.

The Coast Guard issued an official statement Monday responding to charges that cutters caused the break. French said cutters normally avoid that part of the lake and concentrate on areas near Buffalo or further north in the Pelee Pass area where there is a normal shipping route. The area where the ice flow was, he said, has water that is too shallow for large boats.

The last cutter in the area was the cutting tug Neah Bay, which escorted another ship from the Maumee River in Toledo to the Detroit area on Jan. 24. It came back to Cleveland through the Pelee Pass and has been docked for repairs since, French said. The Mackinaw, French said, needs 16 feet of water and that area is only 15 feet deep on average.

That large cutter came to Cleveland from Detroit last week, through the Pelee Pass miles to the north of the floe. Despite reports of a cutter near the floe about 9 a.m. Saturday, the Mackinaw left Cleveland at that time. No other cutters are operating in Lake Erie, French said. After reports of trouble at the floe late morning, the Mackinaw headed just north of Kelley's Island in case it was needed in the rescue. By about 1:30 p.m., it was released to continue to Detroit and headed back north of Pelee Island.

Reported by: The Cleveland Plain Dealer


Port Reports - February 10

Detroit, Mich. - Rob Kennedy
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw departed the dock on the Detroit Riverwalk Monday morning and escorted the Algosar upbound to Sarnia. She continued into Lake Huron and onto her home port of Cheboygan, Mich.

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
A Monday morning departure from Nanticoke was delayed due to maintenance. The Griffon had been out breaking a track, at 5 p.m. she was 9 miles south west of Long Point returning to Nanticoke to escort the Algonova to meet up with the Hollyhock. Hollyhock was escorting the Algoeast into Cleveland Monday night.


Updates - February 10

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates have been added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery

2009 Gatherings schedule updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 10

UHLMANN BROTHERS was launched February 10, 1906, as a.) LOFTUS CUDDY (Hull#341) at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. The MARKHAM (Twin Screw Hopper Suction Dredge) was delivered February 10, 1960, to the Army Corps of Engineers at Cleveland, Ohio. In 1998, The Ludington Daily News reported that a private investment group (later identified as Hydrolink) was planning to start cross-lake ferry service from Muskegon, Michigan to Milwaukee running two high-speed ferries.

On 10 February 1890, NYANZA (wooden propeller freighter, 280 foot, 1,888 gross tons) was launched at F. W. Wheeler's yard (Hull #63) in W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. In 1916, she was renamed LANDBO and she lasted until abandoned in 1920.

In 1975, a fire onboard the CRISPIN OGLEBAY a.) J H HILLMAN JR of 1943, caused $100,000 damage to the conveyor and tunnel while she was laidup at Toledo. The forward end of CRISPIN OGLEBAY now sails as the CANADIAN TRANSFER (C.323003).

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Dave Swayze, Historical Collections of the Great Lakes, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Katmai Bay in Grand Haven to break ice

2/9 - Grand Haven, Mich. - The 140-foot Coast Guard ice-breaking tug Katmai Bay tied up at the Coast Guard station about 8:30 Sunday morning after being diverted from ice-breaking duties in the Straits of Mackinac. The tug's job will be to break up ice in the channel to help prevent a backup of water in the river and bayous as was experienced following a December 2008 thaw that caused an estimated $2.9 million in damage in Ottawa County.

Around midday Katmai Bay made one pass upriver to the turning basin, turned around and made another pass down river going out in the lake to turn around and came back to dock about 2 p.m. She was expected to remain in port over night before heading back to their duties at the Straits.

"We have requested the cutter," based on existing and expected weather conditions, Capt. Rick Yonker, Grand Haven Department of Public Safety, said Saturday night. Yonker said the ship will cut a 75-foot swath in the ice both up and down the river, from Lake Michigan to the railroad bridge. "This is to make sure it is clear enough for the ice to have free flow to Lake Michigan" if it breaks free further upriver. Officials had requested the ice be broken as far as the U.S. 31 bascule bridge, but the area is not wide enough for a vessel that size, said Lt. Cmdr Rob Hemp, commanding officer of the Coast Guard's Sector Field Office Grand Haven. The ship will change direction in the turning basin just downriver from the railroad bridge.

A record-setting 50 degrees was recorded in Grand Rapids Saturday, with the lakeshore area not far behind. After weeks of frigid temperatures and lots of snowfall, the thaw is releasing the equivalent of 2-3 inches of water into the river system, the National Weather Service reported. The thaw is expected to continue throughout the week, with up to an inch of rain expected Tuesday and Wednesday.

Yonker said there is a lot of pack ice just upriver from the bascule bridge, much of the chunks 4-6 inches thick. "I've never seen as much of this type of pack ice before in my career," he said. That, combined with a lot of debris in the river – such as trees and stumps – "may potentially block things at the bridge or bridges," Yonker said.

"There's no guarantee that anything we do will work," Yonker said. "But we want to prevent that (flooding and damage from the ice) from occurring." As of 6 p.m. Saturday, Yonker said he had checked areas around the bascule bridge, but had not noted any rise in the river level.

Farther upstream, though, the water levels are rising.

An ice jam occurred on the Grand River in late December. High temperatures melted snow, which ended up in the river and moved west toward Lake Michigan. High winds moving east and packs of ice, however, bottled up the water – creating a dam-like backup. The water finally broke through the area near the railroad and U.S. 31 bridges in Grand Haven, like a "plug being pulled out of a bathtub," according to Emergency Services Director Bill Smith. Following the event, county officials were developing a plan to help prevent the same thing from happening in the spring. Smith said they must figure out how to break up the ice to let water flow. "We are going to have another event," he said at the time. "There's no question in my mind about that."

The decision was made Friday to proceed with an action plan. The GHDPS in cooperation with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department Emergency Management Division, requested assistance from the Michigan State Police Emergency Division Friday afternoon for the purpose of requesting a United States Coast Guard Cutter to break ice in the Grand River. "Utilizing the Coast Guard Cutter to break the ice in the Grand River from Lake Michigan upstream to the railroad bridge will help facilitate access for any heavy equipment that may need to be brought in should an ice jam occur at the railroad bridge and/or the U.S. 31 drawbridge," Yonker noted in a GHDPS press release. "It will also provide an open channel for the ice and debris to freely flow to Lake Michigan. Emergency Management officials are uncertain if an ice jam will occur, but want to be prepared as much as possible, if such an event takes place." The request for the Coast Guard Cutter was made through the Army Corps of Engineers and approval was received this afternoon confirming the Coast Guard will arrive Sunday.

Vessel Traffic Controller Ken Stierley of the Sault Vessel Traffic Service said the Katmai Bay was on the western side of the Mackinac Bridge, breaking ice for freighters "when she was diverted to Grand Haven. "They were notified just before 4 p.m.," he said. The Katmai Bay's commanding officer, Lt. Glen Moscatello, said the Katmai Bay was breaking a track for the Algowood when they were diverted to Grand Haven. He said conditions in the Straits were not good and "it was kind of like going through molasses." The trip to Grand Haven was better, he said. Although they ran into a "little weather, the seas were good on the way down." Moscatello said they sat outside the Grand Haven pier heads at daybreak before working their way through ice up to 3-4 feet thick to get into the harbor. The Katmai Bay is stationed in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.

Reported by: Dick Fox and Grand Haven Tribune


Port Reports - February 9

Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. - Wendell Wilke
Sunday the tug Prentiss Brown, former Michaela McAllister, departed Bayship Building bound for Milwaukee to mate-up with the barge St. Marys Conquest. She cleared the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal around 3 p.m. heading into Lake Michigan. Sunday Selvick tugs assisted the Cason J. Callaway out of the dry dock and into her slip adjacent to the John Sherwin.

Detroit, Mich. - Adrian Platts and Ken Borg
After spending the night in Windsor, the Mackinaw departed the dock about 10 a.m. and headed down river. The Mackinaw reached the Detroit River off Fighting Island where it turned and headed upbound. Once off Detroit, Mackinaw used its azipod propulsion and over 20 minutes slowly edged sideways across the river to dock on the Detroit Riverwalk next to the Renaissance Center. Mackinaw is expected to escort the Algosar upbound to Sarnia on Monday, where she will continue into Lake Huron and onto her home port of Cheboygan, Mich.

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
Sunday morning the Algonova and Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon started to work their way into Nanticoke after spending the night off Long Point. The Griffon encountered heavy ice; with the track closing behind the ice breaker, they reached the channel about 11:30 a.m. and the Griffon assisted Algonova back into the dock. They are expected to depart around 8 a.m. Monday.

Buffalo, NY. - Brian W.
The fire tug Edward M. Cotter made an ice breaking trip down the Buffalo River on Friday. She opened the channel from her dock at the Michigan Street Bridge out to the North Entrance. She will likely need to make the trip upriver some time this week due to the recent thaw to prevent flooding in South Buffalo.


Oil spill on the Des Plaines River

2/9 - Chicago, Ill. - The U.S. Coast Guard and the Environmental Protection Agency are working together to contain a 65,000 gallon oil spill in the Des Plaines River in Southern Illinois, today. The oil was released from a Caterpillar Inc. holding tank in Rockdale, Ill. The majority of oil is on land but approximately 4,500-6,000 gallons went into the river contaminating a 3 mile area.

The Coast Guard is working with the Oil Spill Response Organization, as well as multiple local facilities to place containment boom around the the oil. There are two vacuum trucks on-scene as well.  The River has been shut down between mile marker 278 and 289.

Reported by: USCG


Underwater stones puzzle archeologists

2/9 - Traverse City, Mich. - Forty feet below the surface of Lake Michigan in Grand Traverse Bay, a mysterious pattern of stones can be seen rising from an otherwise sandy half-mile of lake floor. Likely the stones are a natural feature. But the possibility they are not has piqued the interest of archeologists, native tribes and state officials since underwater archeologist Mark Holley found the site in 2007 during a survey of the lake bottom. The site recently has become something of an Internet sensation, thanks to a blogger who noticed an archeological paper on the topic and described the stones as "underwater Stonehenge." Though the stones could signal an ancient shoreline or a glacial formation, their striking geometric alignment raises the possibility of human involvement. The submerged site was tundra when humans of the hunter-gatherer era roamed it 6,000 to 9,000 years ago. Could the stones have come from a massive fishing weir laid across a long-gone river? Could they mark a ceremonial site? Adding to the intrigue, one dishwasher-size rock seems to bear an etching of a mastodon.

"The first thing I said when I came out of the water was, 'Oh no, I wish we wouldn't have found this,' " said Holley, whose usual prey is sunken boats. "This is going to invite so much controversy that this is where we're going to be for the next 20 years." This spring Holley and a student from Northwestern Michigan College hope to make laser scans of the image that will yield a computer model. That will help scientists assess the site, which is otherwise off limits because of American Indian concerns that the area could be sacred. Researchers who study early American Indians say they will need more evidence to be convinced the stones are a human artifact. They are especially wary of the idea of a mastodon petroglyph. Mastodons were facing extinction when early humans were on the scene, and the few that still existed in North America lived much farther south, evidence shows. "It would be the only visual representation of such in the whole hemisphere," said a skeptical Charles Cleland, retired curator of Great Lakes archeology and ethnology at Michigan State University. "It would be a really spectacular find–if it turns out to be true." Still, Hank Bailey of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians said, "There's a lot that we haven't learned." Moreover, to American Indian eyes, the rocks seem to be arranged with some purpose, he said. "It could easily be a ceremonial site," said Bailey, who gave underwater photographs of the stones to religious leaders. "The same kind of thing that I see there is the same kind of things we use, so why couldn't it have been connected to our people further back than modern archeologists know?" Evidence shows human families were present in northern Michigan thousands of years ago. They traversed a barren tundra dotted by stands of fir trees in pursuit of elk and woodland caribou, gathering nuts and berries as they passed. People did not linger in such a cold, marginal land, but they did mine chert for spear points from a site near Charlevoix and left evidence of campsites in the area, Cleland said.

Humans of that time frequently arranged stones to dam streams to trap fish and for other reasons, said Northwestern University archeologist James Brown. "Until they're investigated archeologically, it's hard to tell," Brown said of the submerged formation.

Holley found the site by accident while doing lake floor survey work in summer 2007 for the Grand Traverse Bay Underwater Preserve. After several passes, a row of stones became clear. When divers visited the site to take photographs, they were left vaguely unnerved. "It was really spooky when we saw it in the water," Holley said. "The whole site is spooky, in a way. When you're swimming through a long line of stones and the rest of the lake bed is featureless, it's just spooky." To satisfy Grand Traverse Bay's American Indian community, which wants to minimize the number of visitors to the site, and to preserve his prerogative to research the spot, Holley has kept its exact location a secret. He said he hopes a computer model of the gouges in the mastodon rock will help experts tell whether the features were a trick of chance cut by glacial forces or were the work of ancient humans. Cleland said petroglyphs are rare in the Upper Midwest and stone circles are more common among primitive farmers than among the hunter-gatherers who traveled through Michigan.

"But I think this is certainly something that needs to be investigated," Cleland said. "It would be unthinkable to leave it alone and not try to figure it out."

Reported by: Chicago Tribune


Updates - February 9

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates have been added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery

2009 Gatherings schedule updated


Today in Great Lakes History - February 9

EAGLESCLIFFE, loaded with 3,500 tons of grain, sank two miles east of Galveston, Texas on February 9, 1983, after the hull had fractured from a grounding the previous day. She began taking on water in her forward end en route to Galveston. To save her the captain ran her into shallow water where she settled on the bottom in 20 feet of water with her bridge and boat deck above water. All 16 crewmembers and one dog were rescued. She was built for the Hall Corp. of Canada in 1957 at Grangemouth, Scotland as a.) EAGLESCLIFFE HALL, renamed b.) EAGLESCLIFFE in 1973. The ALEXANDER LESLIE was launched February 9, 1901, as a.) J T HUTCHINSON (Hull#405) at Cleveland, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

The HOMER D WILLIAMS suffered extensive fire damage to her side plating and forward lower cabins during her lay-up at Toledo, Ohio on February 9, 1971. The fire was started by a spark from welding that caused the tarpaulins stored in the hold to catch fire.

February 9, 1995 - The founder of Lake Michigan Carferry, Charles Conrad, died at the age of 77.

In 1899, JOHN V MORAN (wooden propeller package freighter, 214 foot, 1,350 gross tons, built in 1888, at W. Bay City, Michigan by F. W. Wheeler & Co. (Hull#44) was cut by the ice and developed a severe leak during a mid-winter run on Lake Michigan. The iron passenger/package freight steamer NAOMI rescued the crew from the sinking vessel. The MORAN was last seen on the afternoon of 12 February 1899, drifting with the ice about 20 miles off Muskegon, Michigan. She was a combination bulk and package freighter with hatches in her flanks as well as on her deck.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.



U.S. Coast Guard, and local agencies respond to people stranded on ice floe

2/8 - Cleveland, Ohio - The U.S. Coast Guard, and multiple state and local agencies recovered 135 people Saturday from an ice floe in western Lake Erie near Oak Harbor, Ohio. The call for assistance was received by the Coast Guard at 10:45 a.m. Two of the people were recovered from the water, one was taken to shore in good condition, the other person was transported, by Coast Guard helicopter, to a hospital in Port Clinton, Ohio, and was later pronounced dead.

The victim fell into the water while searching with others for a link to the shoreline, Ottawa County sheriff Bob Bratton said. Others tried CPR before the person was flown to a hospital and pronounced dead, Bratton said.

Lt. Zachary Ford with Detroit Coast Guard said the scene has been stabilized and rescuers are doing one final sweep of the waters to make sure no one has been overlooked. Moments later 6 more people were rescued from a bay in Port Clinton, Ohio.

Authorities said fishermen apparently used wooden pallets to create a bridge over a crack in the ice so they could go farther out on the lake Saturday morning. But the planks fell into the water when the ice shifted, stranding the fishermen about 1,000 yards off shore.

Ice on western sections of Lake Erie is up to 2 feet thick, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Randel said. He said it started to crack as temperatures rose above freezing this weekend and wind gusting to 35 mph pushed on the ice.

Response agencies staged at Oak Harbor, Ohio. The multiple-agency response includes HH-65C Dolphin helicopters from U.S. Coast Guard Air Stations Detroit and Traverse City, Mich.; a C-130 aircraft from USCG Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C.; U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw; rescue boats from U.S. Coast Guard Stations Toledo, Ohio, Belle Isle, Mich., St. Clair Shores, Mich., and Marblehead, Ohio; a helicopter from the Canadian Coast Guard; and response vessels from the Ohio State Patrol; Monroe County Sheriff; Jervis, Carol and Washington Townships; local fire departments and Jerusalem Township Fire Department.


Mackinaw upbound

2/8 - Windsor, Ont. - The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw arrived in the Detroit area Saturday evening and docked in Windsor. It is expected to remain in the area until Monday morning when released from District 9 Search-and-Rescue Guard. Mackinaw is expected to depart for a Lake Huron crossing with arrival in her home port of Cheboygan, Mich. on Tuesday.

Mackinaw was upbound from Cleveland and was diverted to assist in the ice rescue. She travelled as far as Kelly's Island in western Lake Erie before being released and turning for the Detroit River about 1 p.m.

The Mackinaw was in Cleveland after Rear Adm. Peter Neffenger boarded the vessel in Detroit on Thursday to see first-hand how the Mac handles ice. Neffenger assumed command of the Ninth Coast Guard District in May, 2008.

The trip north is the latest leg in a journey that has kept the Mackinaw away from the Straits Area for 13 days. The ship crossed Lake Erie while escorting a ship to Buffalo, where it spent an overnight before repeating the escort back across the lake to Port Huron. Many of the crew enjoyed 16 hours ashore in Buffalo to explore and handle ship logistics.

Reported by: Ron Piskor and the Cheboygan Daily Tribune


Port Reports - February 8

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algosteel was off the Goderich piers around noon on Saturday. She turned outside and backed down the channel with the assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley, tugs Donald Bert, Ian Mac and Pride. She was secure on the Sifto Salt dock around 4 p.m.

Eastern Lake Erie - Hans Urban
After spending the night stopped in the ice off Long Point near the Algonova, Saturday morning the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon reported being in open water on the east side of Long Point. The Algonova was stuck in heavy ice 4 miles south west of Long Point and the Griffon was working to break the vessel f ree. Strong winds from the west are adding to the difficult conditions. Saturday night the two ships remained in the same position where they started the day.


Updates - February 8

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn gallery

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light


Today in Great Lakes History - February 8

While in lay-up on February 8, 1984, a fire broke out in the WILLIAM G MATHER's after accommodations killing a vagrant from Salt Lake City, Utah, who had started the fire that caused considerable damage to the galley.

On 8 February 1902, ETRURIA (steel propeller freighter, 414 foot, 4,653 gross tons) was launched at W. Bay City, Michigan by West Bay City Ship Building Co. (Hull#604). She was built for the Hawgood Transit Company of Cleveland but only lasted three years. She sank in 1905, after colliding with the steamer AMASA STONE in the fog off Presque Isle Light in Lake Huron.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


New tug ready to depart

2/7 - Sturgeon Bay, Wisc. - The tug Prentiss Brown, the former Michaela McAllister, is expected to depart Bay Shipbuilding over the weekend for Milwaukee. Once in Milwaukee, the tug will mate up with the barge St. Mary's Conquest in lay-up, replacing the tug Susan W. Hannah.


Port Reports - February 7

Straits of Mackinac - Fred Stone
Friday evening the Algosteel was eastbound on a return trip from S. Chicago to Goderich. She was assisted through the ice west of the Mackinac Bridge by Mobile Bay, which then headed into St. Ignace. The Katmai Bay passed through the Straits westbound.

Ludington, Mich. - Rob Jackson
The tug Mark Hannah and barge entered Ludington Harbor Thursday afternoon, battling high southerly winds substantial ice on the way. The Hannah was unable to make the turn once in Pere Marquette Lake and was forced to back into the channel between the piers twice before the barge turned into the wind and heavy ice for the course to the Dow Chemical dock to load calcium chloride.

Eastern Lake Erie - Hans Urban
Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon was escorting the Algonova in Lake Erie ice Friday afternoon off Ashtabula when they ran into thick ice.  The Griffon reported heavy ice that would delay their ETA for Long Point. The Griffon reported that the closer they get to Long Point the worse the ice was, breaking ice greater than 14-inches thick.

Friday evening the Algonova reported becoming stuck in ice 4.5 miles south west of Long Point. The Griffon was working to break a track into Nanticoke.


Updates - February 7

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn and Chief Wawatam galleries

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light


Today in Great Lakes History - February 7

The HURON (Hull#132) was launched February 7, 1914, at Ecorse, Michigan by Great Lakes Engineering Works for Wyandotte Transportation Co. She was scrapped at Santander, Spain in 1973.

In 1973, the ENDERS M VOORHEES closed the Soo Locks downbound.

In 1974, the ROGER BLOUGH closed the Poe Lock after locking dow bound for Gary, Indiana.

Data from: Joe Barr, Brian Bernard, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports - February 6

Goderich - Dale Baechler
Algowood, after working for twenty-four hours to make her way in the channel, finally made the Sifto Salt dock around 5 p.m. on Thursday. She was assisted by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Samuel Risley, tugs Pride, Ian Mac and Donald Bert. The ice beyond the breakwalls is very heavy.

Detroit - Mike Nicholls
Thursday the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon was downbound escorting the tug Everlast with barge Norman McLeod and the Algonova The Everlast was heading to the Waterfront Dock where the tug Patricia Hoey was breaking ice. The Griffon and Algonova continued downbound to Lake Erie for Nanticoke. Thursday morning the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw was downbound stopping at Group Detroit before heading for Lake Erie.

South Chicago - Tom Milton
Algosteel departed South Chicago's DTE docks at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.


Updates - February 6

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated new pictures in the Sir James Dunn and Chief Wawatam galleries

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light


Today in Great Lakes History - February 6

On 06 February 1952, the LIMESTONE (steel propeller tug, 87 foot 10 inches) was launched at Bay City, Michigan by the Defoe Shipyard (Hull #423) for the Michigan Limestone and Chemical Company. Later she was sold to U.S. Steel and in 1983, to Gaelic Tug Company who renamed her b.) WICKLOW. She is currently owned by the Great Lakes Towing Company and is named c.) NORTH CAROLINA.

The LORNA P, a.) CACOUNA was damaged by fire at Sorel, Quebec which was ignited by a welder's torch on February 6, 1974.

ALVA C DINKEY (Hull#365) was launched February 6, 1909, at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co.

The HALLFAX (Hull#526) was launched February 6, 1962, at Port Glasgow, Scotland by William Hamilton & Co. Ltd.

On February 6, 1904, the PERE MARQUETTE 19 went aground on Fox Point, Wisconsin approaching Milwaukee in fog. Engulfed in ice and fog, she quickly filled with water.

On 06 February 1885, Capt. William Bridges of Bay City and A. C. Mc Lean of East Saginaw purchased the steamer D W POWERS (wooden propeller freighter, 140 foot, 303 gross tons, built in 1871, at Marine City, Michigan) for the lumber trade. This vessel had an interesting rebuild history. In 1895, she was rebuilt as a schooner-barge in Detroit, then in 1898, she was again rebuilt as a propeller driven steamer. She lasted until 1910, when she was abandoned.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Dave Swayze, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports - February 5

Detroit - Terry Grahm
Wednesday the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mackinaw was upbound in the Detroit River escorting the Algosar.
The pair were upbound from Cleveland


Updates - February 5

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated with a new Feature Sir James Dunn 1952 - 1989

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light


Today in Great Lakes History - February 5

The ASHLAND in a critically leaking condition barely made Mamonel, Colombia on February 5, 1988, where she was scrapped.

February 5, 1870 - Captain William H. Le Fleur of the Pere Marquette carferry fleet, known as "the Bear" was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

On February 5, 1976, the carferry WOLFE ISLANDER III was inaugurated into service between Kingston and Wolfe Island Ontario. Later that night, two blocks over, a Kingston resident noticed the captain turning off the running lights of the 'ol WOLFE ISLANDER as she joined her already winterized sister, the UPPER CANADA.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Johnson, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.



Sour Economy Halves Lakes Coal Trade in January

2/4 - Cleveland, Ohio - The stumbling economy took its toll on the Great Lakes coal trade in January. Shipments totaled only 778,971 net tons, just half the volume of a year ago, and certainly one of the slowest Januarys in recent memory.

With the Lakes now largely closed by winter, the low January coal total could come back to haunt the nation if power plants find themselves short of coal. All U.S.-Flag lakers are now in winter lay-up and undergoing annual maintenance, so the fleet would not be able to meet any demand for coal until March at the earliest.

Lake Carriers’ Association represents 16 American corporations that operate 63 U.S.-Flag vessels on the Great Lakes. These vessels carry the raw materials that drive the nation’s economy: Iron ore and fluxstone for the steel industry, limestone, and cement for the construction industry, coal for power generation. Collectively, these vessels can transport more than 115 million tons of cargo a year when high water levels offset the lack of adequate dredging of Great Lakes ports and waterways.

Lake Carriers’ Association


Port Reports - February 4

Straits of Mackinac - Fred Stone
Tuesday the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay worked all day west of the Mackinac Bridge to help both Algowood and Algosteel get through the ice. At  7:45 a.m. the Algosteel was westbound with a load of salt from Goderich for South Chicago. Shortly before 5 p.m. the Algowood passed eastbound on a return trip from Milwaukee to load salt in Goderich.


U.S. is running short of young mariners

2/4 - Traverse City, Mich. - Long a symbol of romance and adventure, the seafaring life is attracting fewer young adults these days, creating a worsening personnel shortage for those hauling cargo across oceans and the Great Lakes of North America.

Some shipping companies have told the U.S. Maritime Administration that the problem has forced them to dock or even sell vessels. Others said it has kept them from expanding fleets, or caused delayed voyages and lost contracts.

A cross-section of the maritime industry has been affected to varying degrees, from oil tankers and bulk cargo haulers to tugs, barges and ferries.

"It's not limited to any region or any nation. It is a global challenge," Maritime Administrator Sean Connaughton said.

That includes the Great Lakes, where ships carry iron ore, coal and limestone to factories and pick up Midwestern grain for transport overseas.

"We look to hire four to six new officers every year, and every year we can't get them," said Ed Wiltse, vice president of operations for Grand River Navigation, which has five cargo haulers.

Wiltse prefers officers trained especially for the Great Lakes, but sometimes must hire saltwater vessel operators on a short-term basis. "We've had to fly in people at the last minute from Florida or Seattle and get them to a ship so it can leave," he said.

The situation has been developing for years and has many causes. Some point to licensing and training requirements that have gotten tougher, along with beefed-up safety standards and greater use of computers and other technology.

"The days of people just being able to jump on a ship and get a job are long gone," said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for the Lake Carriers Association, a trade group representing Great Lakes shippers.

With international commerce picking up, more goods are being transported by water, so there are more job openings. Stepped-up offshore oil exploration is boosting demand for ships and crews.

And the work force is gradually aging, as veteran mariners retire and fewer young people get aboard. Many in the industry say going to sea has less allure for youths than in previous generations.

One turnoff is spending months at a time away from home.

"You don't go home at 5 o'clock and kiss the wife and ask Billy, 'How was your school day?'" Nekvasil said.

A one-time attraction -- lengthy, entertaining stopovers in exotic ports -- is mostly a memory because of automation and greater efficiency.

"In New York, 50 years ago you could go right into Manhattan and tie up at the Chelsea Piers and spend a week loading or unloading," Connaughton said. "Now you go to the container yard at Port Elizabeth (New Jersey), out near the Meadowlands. Nothing's there but the port, and 10 hours later you're gone anyway." Yet a seafaring career still has plenty to offer.

For one thing, as the unemployment rate climbs, the maritime industry is hiring.

It has taken a hit from the downturn, like other sectors of the economy. But the maritime administration says about 10,000 replacements are needed in the graying officer corps, and a U.S. Coast Guard study predicts shipping trade will double or triple by 2020.

Pay and benefits can be generous. The Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City, which trains prospective officers for civilian and commercial vessels, says it has a 100-percent placement rate for graduates in positions with starting salaries averaging $10,000 per month.

Great Lakes mariners typically are on the water only six to eight months a year, so they can spend the rest of their time at home -- or working elsewhere.

Tom Orzechowski, a vice president of the Seafarers International Union based in Algonac, Michigan, said the industry and government should do better at recruiting youths -- especially those considering the military. "We're a strong alternative to joining the armed services," he said.

Recruitment and apprenticeship initiatives are under way. The Seafarers union started a 20-week program several years ago to help unlicensed seamen earn promotions to mate.

The Great Lakes academy, overlooking Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay, is one of six state schools for officers. Enrollment this semester is 116 but there's room for more than 200, Superintendent John Tanner said.

Cadets train as deck officers -- responsible for navigation and cargo handling -- or engineering officers, who deal with engines, maintenance and equipment.

The curriculum blends classroom lectures with hands-on instruction. Computer-driven ship handling simulators help cadets learn the finer points of piloting 1,000-foot (305-meter) freighters through narrow channels.

The academy also has a 225-foot (69-meter) training ship, a one-time Navy and Coast Guard surveillance vessel where students get real-life experience on the Great Lakes.

Sean Schmelzer, 27, one of several cadets living aboard the ship, graduates in May with licenses that will document his seaworthiness. To Schmelzer, they'll represent "my passport to my workplace being the whole world." "The first time I set foot on a boat," he said, "I knew it was for me."

Associated Press


Greenwood's Guide will return this spring

2/4 - A familiar guide to Great Lakes shipping is returning this spring. Harbor House Publishers, publisher of Great Lakes/Seaway Review, has acquired "Greenwood's Guide to Great Lakes Shipping" and is currently working on updates to provide the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway system with the reliable, timely information that "Greenwood's Guide" always provided.

Greenwood's has not published since 2005.

"I'm so pleased that you will be carrying on my husband's life work," said Jane Greenwood, widow of John O. Greenwood, who founded the book in 1960. "It means a lot to me and my family that Greenwood's Guide' will again be published and used by the Great Lakes maritime industry."

Out of respect for its founder Harbor House will retain the Guide's name; however, it will feature some additional sections and streamlined organization. The book will retain the 6" x 9" format and will continue to use tabs to provide quick access to select information. Every section is being updated to serve as the industry's most accurate, complete and authoritative guide.

"Over the years, our industry partners have asked us to take on the task of publishing Greenwood's," said Harbor House Publisher Michelle Cortright. "Now, after years of working behind the scenes, we have acquired the publication and are working diligently to return this valuable tool to its long-time users. This piece partners nicely with our 39-year commitment to the industry with Great Lakes/Seaway Review."

"Greenwood's Guide" is used by all segments of the shipping industry, including owners, operators, agents, governments, libraries, supplies, import-export terminal operators, overseas shippers and more.

Sections in the Guide, which has extensive cross-referencing, will include information on the fleets, bulk freighters, self-unloaders, tank vessels, package freighters, cargo barges, tugs, cranes, tolls, towing and salvage, grain elevators, ore docks, coal docks, aggregate docks, liquid docks, general cargo docks, agents, brokers, forwarders, shipyards and drydocks, port profiles and mileage. New sections being added for the spring edition include tonnage reports and contact information for legislators.

Harbor House Publishers


Updates - February 4

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated with a new Feature Sir James Dunn 1952 - 1989

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light


Today in Great Lakes History - February 4

The two sections of the a.) WILLIAM J DE LANCEY, b.) PAUL R TREGURTHA) were joined at Lorain, Ohio by American Ship Building Co. and floatlaunched on February 4, 1981, (Hull #909).

In 1977, the ROGER BLOUGH arrived at the American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio for winter lay up and a 5-year hull inspection. She had departed South Chicago after unloading on Jan 25th and the trip took 10 days due to weather and heavy ice.

February 4, 1904 - Captain Russell of the PERE MARQUETTE 17 reported that Lake Michigan was frozen all the way to Manitowoc.

In 1870, The Port Huron Weekly Times reported that “a Montreal company has purchased all the standing timber on Walpole Island Indian Reservation [on the St. Clair River…] A large force of men are employed in hewing, cutting and delivering the same on the banks of the river in readiness for shipment… The proceeds of the sale of timber on Walpole Island will probably amount to $18,000 to $20,000, to be distributed among the Indians of the island to improve their farms.

Data from: Max Hanley, Brian Bernard, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


Port Reports - February 3

Detroit, Mich. - The upper Detroit River was busy with activity around noon on Monday. The Griffon was upbound escorting the Algoeast and tug Everlast pushing the barge Norman McLeod. The Everlast departed Windsor and was bound for Sarnia. A few minutes later the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw was downbound escorting the Algosar.


Early winter lay-up concerns shipping industry and others

2/3 - Duluth, Minn - Duluth-Superior Harbor saw it's final traffic of the season on Jan. 12, a busy day as the Atlantic Huron left and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alder ushered in the Edgar B. Spear and the Edwin H. Gott.

During the winter, the ships continue hauling cargo within the upper Great Lakes as long as the Soo Locks (between Lake Superior and lakes Michigan and Huron) stay open. The Soo Locks close in mid-January and open again in mid-March.

When the locks close, lakers prepare for winter lay-up, a time when they are largely shut down and only a small crew stays aboard. Lay-up in the port of Duluth-Superior means that a vessel will be moored at a protected berth for approximately two months.

During that time, skilled workers will come and go, providing critical maintenance and repair. This care could include anything from a major engine overhaul or hull repair to simple painting and cleaning.

This year, 12 vessels are spending winter in the Duluth-Superior Harbor. Because each vessel represents approximately $500,000 to $800,000 in repairs (totaling well over $7 million), their presence means an economic boost for the local economy and indicates that shippers are expecting Duluth-Superior to be one of the more active ports following ice-out.

The 2008 shipping season started with a bang and ended with a whimper. Normally a ship coming in for winter lay-up in mid-December would be an exception, with the majority arriving in port in January. This year, the global economic downturn sent the Edward L. Ryerson in for the winter Nov. 4. The American Victory quickly followed.

Ken Newhams of the Duluth Shipping News, made an astute comment as the Ryerson came in to port: "The Edward L. Ryerson is usually greeted with great joy when it comes to Duluth-Superior, since many consider it the prettiest boat in the U.S. fleet. However, today most are not very happy about it. It had an extended lay-up between 1998 and 2006 for lack of work and, today, it is coming in for a very early winter lay-up, the first of the season for the Twin Ports. An early lay-up is often a sign of a poor economy, and, in this case, a sign of trouble in the steel industry, since the Ryerson carries iron ore."

In December, four more vessels came in for early lay-up.

Like most other industries, people in the Great Lakes maritime industry hope that world markets will stabilize or, better yet, recover during the winter shipping hiatus. If not, some of the vessels may be late leaving lay-up — and it could be that a few won't leave at all. The fortunes of shipping are tied to the commodity markets and the global economy.

Duluth News Tribune


Shipwreck listed in National Register of Historic Places

2/3 - Madison, Wisc. - The Wisconsin Historical Society has announced the listing of two Lake Michigan shipwrecks, the Lumberman (Milwaukee County) and the Continental (Manitowoc County) in the National Register of Historic Places.

The remains of the schooner Lumberman lie in 55 feet of water four miles east of Oak Creek. Built in 1862 in the remote, frontier shipyard of Allyne Litchfield in Blendon’s Landing, Mich., the Lumberman was built specifically for transportation of lumber products. The three-masted, double centerboard schooner sank in a fast-moving storm on April 6, 1893.

The Lumberman is remarkably intact and provides the opportunity to study construction techniques on this unique vessel type. Little documentation exists in the historic record regarding double centerboard schooners, and the Lumberman is one of only four examples known to exist in Wisconsin waters, making it an important archaeological resource, according to a press release from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

The remains of the bulk carrier Continental, located 1.5 miles north of Rawley Point Light in Point Beach State Forest near Two Rivers, rest broken in 15 feet of water. Built in 1882 by well-known shipwright George Presley in Cleveland, Ohio, the Continental was one of a transitional class of Great Lakes bulk carriers that began to employ innovative hull-strengthening technologies to accommodate greater gross tonnage and longer hulls.

The Continental was lost in a blinding snowstorm in December 1904 while running empty, bound for Manitowoc for winter service and repairs. Bulk carriers like the Continental are an important and enduring part of the Great Lakes economy and history, having played a substantial role in the industrialization of America, according to the press release.

The register is the official national list of historic properties in America worthy of preservation, and it is maintained by the National Park Service in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The Wisconsin Historical Society administers the program within Wisconsin. It includes sites, buildings, structures, objects and districts that are significant in national, state or local history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture.

 Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter


Updates - February 3

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates have been added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated with a new Feature Sir James Dunn 1952 - 1989

Lighthouses of the Great Lakes updated - DeTour Reef Light



Today in Great Lakes History - February 3

In 1960, The Ludington Daily News reported that the S.S. AVALON, formerly the S.S. VIRGINIA, had been sold to Everett J. Stotts of Artesia, California.

On 03 February 1899, the steamer GEORGE FARWELL (wooden propeller freighter, 182 foot, 977 gross tons, built in 1895, at Marine City, Michigan) burned while laid up near Montreal, Quebec. She had just been taken from the Great Lakes by her new owners, the Manhattan Transportation Company, for the Atlantic coastal coal trade, The loss was valued at $50,000 and was fully covered by insurance. The vessel was repaired and lasted until 1906 when she was lost near Cape Henry, Virginia.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection and the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.



Port Reports - February 2

Nanticoke, Ont. - Hans Urban
Sunday morning the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Griffon was working to open the slip and channel so that the Algoeast can move its cargo of bunker oil. The Griffon reported that they were breaking 9-10 inches of ice. At 11:45 a.m. the Griffon was working with the Algoeast into Lake Erie under close escort.


France claims rights to Lake Michigan shipwreck

2/2 - Traverse City - The French government says it still owns the Griffin, a 17th-Century ship built by legendary explorer La Salle that may have been discovered in northern Lake Michigan.

France filed a claim to the vessel Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, escalating a legal battle over who owns and has authority to retrieve artifacts from the long-lost vessel. Michigan also is seeking title, although state officials have raised doubts about whether the Griffin's gravesite actually has been found. They say federal law gives the state ownership of abandoned vessels embedded in its Great Lakes bottomlands.

A private group, Great Lakes Exploration LLC, located what it contends may be the Griffin's wreckage in 2001. It wants to be appointed custodian until the courts determine ownership and salvage rights.

The precise site has not been publicly revealed, but is believed to be between Escanaba and the St. Martin Islands, near Wisconsin. The Griffin (also spelled "Griffon") disappeared on its maiden voyage in 1679 after embarking from an island near Green Bay, Wis., with a crew of six and a cargo of furs and other goods.

France filed paperwork with the court last week to meet a deadline for avoiding loss of rights to the ship, a spokesman for the French embassy in Washington said Thursday.

The claim is based on documents showing the fatal expedition was undertaken on behalf of the French crown and was not a private venture, the spokesman said.

Steve Libert, spokesman for Great Lakes Exploration, backs the claim. "Michigan isn't fighting just me any more. They're fighting the country of France," he said.

Matt Frendewey, spokesman for the Michigan Attorney General's Office, said state officials were reviewing the French court filing and would respond later.

In a motion filed last month, Michigan asked federal judge Robert Holmes Bell to declare the wreckage — if it exists — state property. Assistant Attorney General Louis Reinwasser said divers visited the site in October and found only a timber protruding from the lake bottom.

Ken Vrana, director of the Lansing-based Maritime Center, said a sonar examination of the site in 2006 detected numerous artifacts on the bottom and embedded in sediments.

His nonprofit scientific and educational organization is working with Libert on plans for a remote sensing expedition this summer in hopes of identifying the artifacts. France's director of underwater archaeology has endorsed the mission, Vrana said.

"I would still love to do it on a cooperative basis with the State of Michigan and I'm perplexed as to why they are resisting," he said.

Detroit Free Press


Climate change could drain Great Lakes

2/2 - The Great Lakes have long been a bastion of stability -- with water hovering at about the same level for as long as anyone can remember. But a new study shows that climate change once pushed lake levels far below where they are now. That opens up the possibility that future climate change might do the same thing.

More than 33 million people depend on the Great Lakes for water, hydropower and work in industries ranging from shipping to recreation. During the past event, about 8,500 years ago, water ceased to flow between the lakes. Today, going from interconnected bodies of water to isolated basins could be catastrophic.

"If you can't transport things freely from the Great Lakes out to the Atlantic, major economic dislocation is going to happen there," said John King, a geological oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett. "The way things are done in that neck of the woods would change dramatically."

For decades, scientists have been working to reconstruct the aqueous history of the Great Lakes. Those reconstructions showed that, for thousands of years, lake levels have only varied by about 7 feet up or down, mostly due to the advance and retreat of glaciers, which alternately trap and release water. As they move, glaciers also cause land underneath them to rise and fall slightly.

Using a variety of techniques, King and colleagues took a closer look at the region's geologic past. They scanned aerial photographs for evidence of former beaches, cliffs and outlets for water flow from one lake to the next. They bounced sound off surfaces to get cross-sections of the underwater topography. They looked at microfossil evidence, took note of tree stumps at surprisingly low depths, and collected core samples from areas of interest for radiocarbon dating.

Together, the evidence showed that between about 8,800 and 8,300 years ago, the water dropped 66 fee) below current levels. Outlets became too high for water to pass, and lakes were suddenly cut off from each other.

A major drop-off in rainfall had to be what caused the drop, the researchers concluded in December in the journal Eos. Glaciers had already left the region by then, leaving a period of significantly cooler and dryer weather behind.

"We looked at all the evidence we could find, and there's no other explanation," King said. "This means that the idea that the lakes are insensitive to climate change is incorrect."

The future is projected to grow warmer and drier -- not cooler and drier like the period King's team studied. But the new work might hold warning signs for what's to come, said geologist Steve Colman, of the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

Ships carrying coal, iron, and other goods wouldn't be able to pass through their normal routes and neither would spawning fish. Evaporating water would increase the concentration of salts and change the chemistry of the lakes. Hydropower plants would run dry.

"The potential exists for lake levels to fall below their outlets like they did 8,000 years ago if climate continues to get warmer and drier," Colman told Discovery News. "There's an analogy there. Whether it fits exactly or not, nobody knows."

Scientists need to do more research, King added, to see how likely the scenario is and to prepare both Canada and the United States for a bracing array of economic and ecological consequences.

Discovery News


Updates - February 2

News Photo Gallery updated

Weekly Updates have been added

Historical Perspective Galleries updated with a new Feature Sir James Dunn 1952 - 1989


Today in Great Lakes History - February 2

On February 2, 1981, the ARTHUR SIMARD grounded in the St. Lawrence River on her way from Montreal to Sept Iles, Quebec with a cargo of diesel oil and suffered extensive bottom damage.

The SAMUEL MATHER, a.) PILOT KNOB (Hull#522) had her keel laid February 2, 1942, at Ashtabula, Ohio by Great Lakes Engineering Works.

February 2, 1939 - The CHIEF WAWATAM went to the shipyard to have a new forward shaft and propeller placed.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.



$2B dollars goes to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

2/1 - The U. S. House of Representatives Wednesday passed a massive $819-billion economic stimulus plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Two billion dollars of that was dedicated for the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, which handles waterways and the Soo Locks.

"If the whole point of this is to stimulate economic activity . . . there's really no better Corps of Engineer project to point to," said Nick Choate, a spokesperson for Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee). "This is not a project that affects one town or one county or one state. It really is a regional project."

Stupak has been pushing for a supplement to the 40- year-old Poe Lock for years. The Poe is the only of the existing four locks big enough to handle the 1,000-foot freighters that make up two-thirds of all traffic through the locks.

The new lock would replace the Davis and Sabin, no longer operational at more than 80 years old.

Congress first authorized a new lock in 1986 and has been seemingly studied to death ever since. While Wednesday stimulus package earmarks no specific projects, President Barack Obama has stressed those that are most "shovel ready" will be first to be approved. In a letter to key House committee chairmen and the Corps of Engineers last month, Stupak said nothing "meets the definition of 'shovel ready' more than the replacement of the Soo Lock."

While Stupak's letter has not been formally answered, informal correspondence has established that "within the region it's certainly a large project and a priority; as far as nationally, I can't say," said Choate.

"This is a large infusion of money for the Corps, and we would hope that they appreciate the economic impact this project would have on the entire region."

One aspect of the bill is drawing criticism from across the world, however. As currently drafted, the bill contains provisions that major public works projects to favor U. S. steel and iron over imports.

The Sault Star


Updates - February 1

News Photo Gallery updated

Historical Perspective Galleries updated: Chief Wawatam, Henry Ford II and Cliffs Victory


Today in Great Lakes History - February 1

On 01 February 1871, the SKYLARK (wooden propeller steamer, 90 tons, built in 1857) was purchased by the Goodrich Transportation Company from Thomas L. Parker for $6,000.

On February 1, 1990, the U.S.C.G.C. MESQUITE was officially decommissioned.

The steamer R J GORDON was sold to M. K. Muir of Detroit on 1 February 1883.

In 1904, the ANN ARBOR NO 1 found the rest of the fleet stuck in the ice outside Manitowoc. She made several attempts to break them loose, she became stuck there herself with the others for 29 days.

In 1917, the ANN ARBOR NO 6 (later ARTHUR K ATKINSON) arrived Frankfort, Michigan on her maiden voyage. The entire town turned out to welcome her.

On 1 February 1886, Captain Henry Hackett died in Amherstburg, Ontario at the age of 65. He and his brother, J. H. Hackett, organized the Northwestern Transportation Company in 1869.

In 1972, the ENDERS M VOORHEES locked through the Poe Lock downbound, closing the Soo Locks for the season.

Data from: Max Hanley, Joe Barr, Father Dowling Collection, Brian Bernard, Ahoy & Farewell II and the Great Lakes Ships We Remember series.


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